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Sanjay Gupta’s Five Pillars of Brain Health: Move, Discover, Relax, Nourish, Connect

Summary:
Sanjay Gupta’s book Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age is all about improving cognitive functioning. Early in the book, Sanjay points to five pillars of brain health. As a teaser for the book, let me quote a bit on each of these five pillars, adding :Move. … Exercise, both aerobic and nonaerobic (strength training), is not only good for the body; it’s even better for the brain. … Physical exertion, in fact, has thus far been the only thing we’ve scientifically documented to improve brain health and function. … the connection between physical fitness and brain fitness is clear, direct, and powerful. Movement

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Sanjay Gupta's Five Pillars of Brain Health: Move, Discover, Relax, Nourish, Connect

Sanjay Gupta’s book Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age is all about improving cognitive functioning. Early in the book, Sanjay points to five pillars of brain health. As a teaser for the book, let me quote a bit on each of these five pillars, adding :

Move. … Exercise, both aerobic and nonaerobic (strength training), is not only good for the body; it’s even better for the brain. … Physical exertion, in fact, has thus far been the only thing we’ve scientifically documented to improve brain health and function. … the connection between physical fitness and brain fitness is clear, direct, and powerful. Movement can increase your brainpower by helping to increase, repair, and maintain brain cells, and it makes you more productive and more alert throughout the day. … it’s stunning.

Discover. … picking up a new hobby, like painting or digital photography, or even learning a new piece of software or language can strengthen the brain. Doing something new can even be seeing a 3D movie, joining a new club, or even using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth.

Relax. … Scores of well-designed studies … routinely show that poor sleep can lead to impaired memory and that chronic stress can impair your ability to learn and adapt to new situations. … multitasking can slow your thinking. Stress is particularly subversive. … find ways to unwind …

Nourish. … we finally have evidence to show that consuming certain foods (e.g., cold-water fish, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, fibrous whole fruits and vegetables) while limiting certain other foods (those high in sugar, saturated fat, and trans-fatty acids) can help avoid memory and brain decline, protect the brain against disease, and maximize its performance. … This conversation extends to the health of our microbial partners as well. The human gut microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that make their home inside our intestines—have a profound role in the health and functioning of our brains …

Connect. … A 2015 study, among many others, tells us that having a diverse social network can improve our brain’s plasticity and help preserve our cognitive abilities. Interacting with others not only helps reduce stress and boosts our immune system; it can also decrease our risk of cognitive decline.

On connect and discover, see:

On nourish see:

On all five, see:

Final Thoughts: I think we are a ways away from a technology that can prevent us from eventually dying of multiple organ failure if we don’t die of something else first. But the more I learn the more things people typically think of as part of aging look like slow degenerative diseases from failure to care for our bodies well. For many people, progressively worse backaches can be prevented by seeing a chiropractor before things get too bad. Regular exercise and fasting and essentially no sugar better replicate what our bodies were designed for in the environment of evolutionary adaptation. Even having a continuing highly interactive role in society as one gets older is likely to better match the environment of evolutionary adaptation, since when old folks were scarce and writing hadn’t been invented, their memories were a crucial source of accumulated knowledge. And before electric lights, most humans, on many nights, had nothing better to do when it got dark than sleep and have sex. And many would have followed the instinct we still have to take an afternoon nap in the heat of the day. So they probably got more sleep than we do. Going contrary to the design parameters of our bodies is likely to make them go on the fritz. Then we blame it on aging, when aging is only a part of what is going.

There is a lot more to be said about how to live a healthier life, not just for your brain but for everything else. Take a look at my bibliographic post “Miles Kimball on Diet and Health: A Reader's Guide.”

Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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