How to Keep Sharp & Mind Your Noggin

A few weeks ago I was telling one of my dear friends, Alex Hendee, about some of the interesting things I have been learning about neuroscience from the Huberman Lab podcast (I’ve become a HUGE fan of Andrew Huberman over the last month and recommend it to anyone who wants to dive deep into practical application of neuroscience). Being the thoughtful gift-giver Alex is, I received a copy of Sanjay Gupta’s book “Keep Sharp” shortly after our conversation.

The book is broken into three parts: the first focusing on teaching the reader about how the brain works and how cognitive decline happens, the second is a series of habits to protect you from cognitive decline, and the third is all about what to do if you or a loved one is diagnosed with an ailing brain. If you want to learn more about parts one or three I recommend picking up a copy, below will be some highlights from part two.

Key takeaways from part 2; how to not lose your mind:

  1. Move: Physical exertion is one of the only scientifically documented practices that can improve brain health and function. We all know exercise is good for the body, and it also has a direct impact on the health of the brain (both strength training + aerobic).
  2. Discover: learning something new will strengthen your brain. That can be physical (dance, martial arts, etc.) or purely cognitive (computer programming, language acquisition, reading, etc.). Flexing your concentration and focus muscles improves your ability to do so within other tasks as well.
  3. Relax: quality sleep for at least 7 hours is one of the absolute most important habits one can develop for maintaining a healthy brain. In addition, practices like meditation and non-sleep deep rest (AKA: yoga Nedra) can also improve brain health.
  4. Nourish: no surprises here, the fuel you put in your body impacts your brain. The summary: “eat whole foods, mostly plants, not too much” covers the basics of this chapter of the book.
  5. Connect: connecting with others, face to face, reduces stress, boosts immune systems, and decreases the risk of cognitive decline. This was not a topic I had learned about before, so I found this section to be very interesting. It is for this reason (along with “discover”), researchers believe, why cognitive decline can rapidly pick up once a person retires – since they are losing a major point of connection in their lives; ideally this should be replaced by other social outlets.

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