Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta. Keep your brain young, healthy, and sharp with this science-driven guide to protecting your mind from decline by neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.
In order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind. It is true, and the best part is that it is not that hard to do. Think of it as periodic little tweaks and adjustments instead of wholesale changes in your life.
Possessing a resilient brain is what separates strategic, visionary thinkers from more average ones. It is not necessarily IQ or even educational level. It is the ability to improve the brain from challenging experiences instead of shrinking it.
The human brain is a remarkable organ, an evolutionary marvel. It arguably houses more connections than there are stars in the known galaxy. Scientists have said that the brain is the most complex thing we have ever discovered; one of the discoverers of DNA went so far as to call it “the last and grandest biological frontier. The brain,” he said, “boggles the mind."
To me, the brain has always been a bit mystical. Weighing in at a little over three pounds, it comprises all the circuitry we need to do just about everything. Think about that for a moment: It weighs less than most laptop computers, yet it can perform in a way that no computer can or will ever rival.
The heart is a glorified pump, an engineering marvel for sure, but still a pump that can now be replicated in an engineer’s laboratory. There is no true metaphor for the brain. If you become brain dead due to some horrible head injury, there is no replacement. It is the command central for not just our body but for our existence. Despite how much we have mapped it, probed it, infused it with chemicals, we are still not exactly sure what makes it tick or slows its tick.
People often tell me they “don’t have time” to exercise, but you must make the time. [...] Remember, this isn’t about vanity or looks; it’s about your life and well-being. Physical exercise may offer the greatest return on investment in yourself, and it’s an antidote to many things that play into your risk for decline.
Broadly speaking, exercise improves digestion, metabolism, body tone and strength, and bone density. Most of us think about it as a weight loss tool, which it is. But it’s much more than that. It can turn on your “smart genes,” support emotional stability, and stave off depression and dementia. When you choose the right exercise for you, it’s enjoyable and increases your self-worth and confidence. Don’t take this lightly because I really mean it: You can be smarter by some measures after one hour of exercise through the effects of movement on the brain.
Exercise helps me think better and consolidate new information. Without it, I find that most of what I think are my “new” thoughts are basically a repackaging of old ideas. With my brain on exercise, I find that I am more likely to have truly novel thoughts, an incredible feeling.
Delay retirement as long as possible. And when you do retire, don’t quit on life. Find activities that are joyful and stimulating. Stay engaged.
I sorely underestimated the value of sleep for far too long and wish I could gain back all those hours - years, probably - that I lost. Now I rank sleep close to the top of my list in terms of priorities.
Contrary to popular belief, sleep is not a state of neural idleness. It is a critical phase during which the body replenishes itself in a variety of ways that ultimately affect every system, from the brain to the heart, the immune system, and all the inner workings of our metabolism.
Sleep is anything but a waste of time. It’s when the body heals tissues, strengthens memory, and even grows. Losing sleep will have both short- and long-term consequences on your health, and you cannot necessarily catch up on sleep later on by sleeping in over the weekend or taking a long, sleepy vacation.
Mornings are golden time. Use them to do your most creative work as opposed to procedural.
While no single food is the key to good brain health, a combination of healthy foods will help secure the brain against assault, and it is never too early to begin. Think about it. The food you eat in your youth can start to lay the groundwork for protecting your brain in your later years.
Stop the external attack on your brain. Reducing your intake of sugar and artificially-sweetened beverages, fast food meals, processed meats, highly salty foods, and sweets is no longer a gentle suggestion; it is a mandate. Stop buying foods that a gardener or farmer (or your great-grandmother) wouldn’t recognize.
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are on the rise in our society. It’s the paradox of our era: We are hyperconnected through digital media yet increasingly drifting apart from each other and suffering from loneliness because we lack authentic connection. This absence of real connection is epidemic, and medicine is increasingly recognizing it as having dire physical, mental, and emotional consequences.
Close relationships protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, financial status, or even genes.
Take a walk with a friend or neighbor and have a conversation about what worries you. The combination of the exercise, in-person interaction, and talking through your anxieties is a wonder drug to the brain.
One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.
There will always be bad guys out there trying to steal our possessions and momentarily disrupting our life, but they cannot pilfer our minds. Our minds are uniquely our own, and our perceptions of the world are uniquely our own as a result. As soon as sensory stimuli come in - through smell, sight, sound, touch, taste - they go through hundreds of relay stations, each one changing the stimulus ever so slightly so that the final interpretation of the stimulus is highly individual. This is what makes each of our lives distinctive as well. I plan to continue living a wholly unique life of adventure and discovery for as long as possible. It will create a mind that is like a fingerprint, unlike anyone else’s. My hope is the same for you.
Your lifestyle habits will influence the fate of your brain more so than your genetics.
There will always be a place for good old-fashioned habits like eating more vegetables and working out regularly. But those time-tested habits coupled with what’s in store for us tomorrow will ultimately make for the best life - one that we will want to remember and will be able to remember. Keep sharp.