In the first few episodes of National Geographic’s docuseries Limitless, Chris Hemsworth takes on physical challenges like rope climbing and swimming in icy waters to help his body fight the ravages of aging.
In the fifth episode, ‘Memory,’ neurologist Sharon Sha, M.D. sets a challenge to safeguard Hemsworth’s mind: navigating the wilderness of the Australian Outback without using technology.
After taking their phones, Sha drops Hemsworth and his friend, artist Otis Hope Carey, in the middle of the Outback for a two-day trek across tricky terrain in order to improve their long-term brain health and memory. (Spoiler: They aced the test.)
Here’s what we know about Sha and her research on preventing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
She Thinks We Could Have an Alzheimer’s Cure in Five Years
Sha’s work as a behavioral neurologist at Stanford University involves “trying to find the next cure for Alzheimer’s and other related disorders,” she told Authority Magazine.
While there is no cure for dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases “as of right now,” Sha hopes that “will change in the next five years.”
She Exercises Her Brain By Hiking
Sha regularly posts about hiking on her social media accounts, but she’s not doing it for the ‘gram—she’s doing it for her brain health.
There’s a lot of research around exercise and memory, Sha told The Film Collective. Multiple studies show “aerobic exercise is beneficial, but there are mixed studies about whether say weight training and other types of exercise can be just as good or even better,” Sha says.
Her advice: Think about what you enjoy and mix and match your exercises. Whether it be walking (“Just make it brisk enough,” Sha says), dance, or other forms of exercise, try to do “some other types of activity that can include cognitive stimulation and social stimulation,” says Sha.
Sha adds that study after study, “aerobic exercise has been the most beneficial or consistently repeated,” for slowing memory decline.
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Her Meals are Designed to Protect Her Mind
Sha makes room for indulgence but eats healthy. She touted the brain-protective Mediterranean diet in an interview with The Film Collective.
Research backs the Mediterranean diet as a way to reduce heart disease and overall mortality, but some evidence says it can also reduce developing problems with memory and thinking.
More From 'Limitless'
She Socializes for Stimulation
Sha prioritizes nights out with friends and family time. Why? Her research has found that socializing increases brain stimulation.
“In the pandemic, we were so isolated, we felt terrible, we were in this brain fog,” Sha told LRM Online. “Socializing has been really beneficial to keeping your brain healthy.”
She Works Her Brain on the Daily
Interactive activities stimulate your brain which—along with a clean diet and exercise—may help prevent and delay cognitive decline, she told LRM Online.
“If you really enjoy a certain type of activity, like crossword puzzles, then keep it up,” Sha says. “It is making you think, it is interactive…so just find your joy and do that.”
Sha’s brain stimulant of choice: dance.
Whatever yours is, Sha offers this advice: “Make it a habit every day. Your brain doesn’t take days off and neither should your body, your sleep, your diet, all of that should be there on a daily basis.”