Recent Blog Articles
Gun violence: A long-lasting toll on children and teens
Adult female acne: Why it happens and the emotional toll
Talking to your doctor about your LGBTQ+ sex life
Untangling grief: Living beyond a great loss
Thunderstorm asthma: Bad weather, allergies, and asthma attacks
Heart problems and the heat: What to know and do
I’m too young to have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, right?
Period equity: What it is and why it matters
Back pain: Will treatment for the mind, body—or both—help?
Colon cancer screening decisions: What’s the best option and when?
Mind & Mood
Shield your brain from decline
Use the SHIELD acronym to remember the lifestyle habits that will help protect your memory and thinking skills.
We are making encouraging progress in finding medications that prevent or even reverse cognitive decline. Until we get there, however, the most powerful way to protect the brain is to live a healthy lifestyle. The healthy habits to include are summed up with the acronym SHIELD, developed by neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi, co-director of the McCance Center for Brain Health at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Here’s what SHIELD means.
Sleep at least seven hours a night
As you sleep, your brain flushes out waste material. Also, microglial cells in the brain clean out a toxic protein called beta-amyloid, which can clump together and form the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. "Microglial cells are like scrubby bubbles," Tanzi explains. "To get enough cleaning, you need seven or eight hours of sleep that includes dream sleep and deep sleep."
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
You might also be interested in…
Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment
This guide from Harvard Medical School explores the subtle differences between various forms of memory problems, breaks down the different types of MCI, and explains brain function and its role in creating and retrieving memories. You will learn the causes and risk factors for MCI, what doctors look for when diagnosing the condition, and medical as well as natural ways to treat or even prevent it.
- Worried about memory failure?
- Risk factors for MCI and dementia
- Evaluating MCI
- Reversible causes of MCI
- Treating MCI
- Protecting against cognitive decline
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!