Island Senior: Caring For Your Brain
“Island Senior” is a regular column on the San Juan Update written by Peggy Sue McRae.
Neurosurgeon and well-known CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD. was recently featured in the Blue Zones online newsletter regarding his new book, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.
The Blue Zones is a concept based on worldwide longevity studies featured in a previous Island Senior article, Island Senior: Tips From the Blue Zones For Hearty Longevity.
Those of us who have helped care for our own parents or grandparents suffering from dementia have all the more reason to be concerned for our own brain health.
The good news is there are things we can do to maintain a well-functioning brain.
Dr. Gupta explains, “There are things we can do that involve lifestyle changes that could absolutely delay the progression of dementia and even reverse it.” Lifestyles molded on the Blue Zones support good brain health.
“If it’s good you the heart, it’s good for the brain,” says Dr. Gupta. In other words, getting exercise and eating a healthy diet helps keep your brain alert. Even moderate movement throughout the day will help. Less red meat or processed foods are a double win for both your heart and your brain. Berries are especially good brain food. While blueberries have a well-known “superfood” status Dr. Gupta says, “Dive into berries.” All kinds of berries are good brain food.
When it comes to activities like playing the piano or doing crossword puzzles, practice may make perfect but it’s change, getting out of your comfort zone, that can keep your brain agile. Try something new to keep your brain sharp.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also critical. Science is continually learning more about the importance of sleep. While we sleep our brains process memories from the day and brain “cleaning cells” actually remove toxins. Our brains go through a sort of “rinse cycle” at night.
Finally, social interaction is good for our brain health. Dr. Gupta’s prescriptions for one of the best things you can do for your brain is to take a brisk walk, with a close friend, who you can tell your problems to. Says Dr. Gupta, “The experiences you have through empathy, through these connections with people, is all nourishing the brain as well.”