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5 Ways to Slow Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dementia is not inevitable, if you do these five things.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Are age-related brain diseases inevitable? Not according to CNN's resident brain surgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who believes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "We're making tremendous progress in understanding why people develop neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia," says Dr. Gupta. "We used to think it was a fixed problem that couldn't be altered and was preordained, so if your parents had it, you would too. That's not the case, and it's inspiring to know that relatively small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference." Here are five ways to slow dementia, according to Dr. Gupta. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Quality, Restorative Sleep

older couple sleeping peacefully

The CDC recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Sleep impacts every aspect of your wellbeing, and it's especially important for brain health. "There is a rinse cycle that happens in your brain when you sleep," says Dr. Gupta. "You are basically clearing out metabolic waste. That happens when you are awake, but the process is close to 60 percent more efficient when you are asleep. You're clearing out plaque and tangles, and all the things that lead to dementia. You're helping the brain run more smoothly."


Get Moving!

middle-aged woman jogging in winter in a close up low angle view against a sunny blue sky in a healthy active lifestyle

"When you move, it's almost like you're signaling to the body and to the brain, 'I wanna be here. I'm not ready to go!' What the brain specifically releases [are] these things called neurotrophins; these good chemicals are sort of nourishing the brain," Dr. Gupta says. "You know, people keep saying that 'sitting is the new smoking.' Every time you're about to sit, say, 'Do I need to be sitting.' And then just try and moderately move throughout the day. It's so effective in terms of what it does to the brain and what we can measure it doing to the brain. And there are simple habits that you can do — for example, take the stairs rather than the elevator. It takes months, years to change the heart. The brain can change like that."

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Eat Berries For Brain Health

strawberries, blueberries, and cherries

Dr. Gupta recommends a diet rich in omega-3s—and plenty of berries. "They always say, 'Apple a day keeps the doctor away.' I think when it comes to the brain, it's berries," says Dr. Gupta. "Berries, in terms of what they can do for the brain and some of these certain chemicals that they release, are probably gonna be one of your best foods."

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Learn a New Skill

mature female artist smiling at camera while painting on easel in art studio

Where brain health is concerned, it's truly a matter of use it or lose it for your cells. "The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that's typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells," says Gupta. "We want to constantly be using new paths and trails and roads within our brain."

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Maintain Your Social Connections

older couple doing yoga in front of a laptop
Shutterstock / insta_photos

Your friends, family, and community are helping keep your brain young. "What do we know about communities that have the best brain health in the world?" says Dr. Gupta. "They tend to be active, have rich social connections, and don't hang on to their anxieties. Even communities that have failing grades on classic measures of health like cholesterol and smoking seem to be buffered in terms of brain health because of social connections."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan