Five Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy as You Age - Greater Good Science Center at UC - Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
May 11, 2021 2 mins, 4 secs

According to neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent and author of the new book Keep Sharp: Building a Better Brain at Any Age, the answer is no.

Along the way, he busts common myths—for example, that doing puzzles is a good way to ward off dementia—and replaces them with science-based advice on how to live a longer, healthier life with a more functional brain.

While he’s quick to hail the cognitive strengths of older people (they tend to have better vocabulary skills, for example), he also points out that our cognitive capacities can start to decline much earlier in life than we think, even in early adulthood.

“When people ask me what’s the single most important thing they can do to enhance their brain’s function and resiliency to disease, I answer with one word: exercise,” writes Gupta.

While puzzles may not be the answer to cognitive decline, we do need to stimulate our brains with learning and discovery, writes Gupta.

However, just because you don’t have a college education doesn’t mean you will experience greater cognitive decline, either.

People would be better off taking a traditional class or learning a second language, he says, because these activities offer more complex challenges and social contact, too—also important for brain health.

Finding purpose in life can be good for the brain, especially if it involves contact with people of different generations or personal learning and challenge.

Research suggests that people with a sense of purpose have reduced risk of suffering the deleterious effects of dementia—even if their brain contains Alzheimer’s plaques—probably because having purpose inspires them to take better care of themselves.

There is no evidence to suggest gluten affects people’s brain function, he says, and kale and fish oil, while good for you, are not going to stop cognitive decline.

It’s important for brain health, too, as research suggests its opposite, loneliness, seems to be a factor in developing Alzheimer’s. .

While it’s true each of these lifestyle factors are good for preventing cognitive decline, Gupta has advice for people already experiencing cognitive decline, too.

Research says that the pandemic hurt the mental health of new parents—but there are ways to make things better

The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society

© 2021 The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley

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