Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Emmy Award-winning chief medical correspondent, has a new book all about brain health in which he debunks common myths about aging and brain decline.
Gupta spoke about “Keep Sharp” with MAGIC 106.7 about how memory storage works and how things like sleep and diet can affect brain health.
Lapses in memory are not uncommon, and Gupta explained that as people grow older, they can become concerned that there are signs of a problem.
“People always ask, including my own parents, ‘Is this the beginning of something to worry about, is this dementia?’ and I get it, people are really scared of this but the reality is that almost always, in situations like that, it’s the inattention,” Gupta said.
He gave the example of putting your keys down and not remembering where you left them.
“It’s not that you forgot where you put the keys, it’s that you never really remembered in the first place because you weren’t paying attention when you did it, it never got stored into your memory banks.”
Gupta explains that when you should worry is “not where are they, but what are they? If you have to look at them and say ‘what are these for again’?” and if you need multiple cues “to remember what something’s for, that’s more indicative of a memory problem than simply misplacing things.”
Gupta also spoke about the types of actions that can promote brain health. “You have to do different things… like tonight when you eat dinner, eating with your left hand instead of your right hand.” He said that it can harness and utilize new parts of the brain.
He explained that sleep is essential for memory function, because that is when the brain processes what happened during the day. “That’s why you tell kids who are studying for exams if you get an hour extra to study or to sleep, take the extra hour to sleep because that’s when you’re really just taking everything you just learned and putting it into the memory banks. That consolidation of memories is really important.”
Diet is also important for brain function, but Gupta said that if you are eating right, supplements aren’t necessary. “It’s just really hard to take the good stuff out of food and put it in a pill form. If you eat a tomato, you’re getting the active ingredients, the lycopene, the things from tomatoes, but you’re getting all these other things as well that are probably really important. It’s called the entourage effect: you want the active ingredients, but you need the entourage for it to actually work best in your body.”
Sanjay Gupta is a New York Times bestselling author. Dr. Gupta lives in Atlanta, where he works as an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine.