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Since we are on the love month and only a day away from Valentines, we’re starting a series called The Brain in Love. So today, we’re going to talk about, what if you can choose the one you love?
Speaker 1: I'm hoping my question might lead to some good dating advice. Based on your brain scans that you've seen, what would you consider the high-risk issues that maybe aren't treated, or are harder to repair when there has been damage, versus maybe the low-risk issues?
Dr Daniel Amen: Tell me more of your thinking behind this question.
Speaker 1: Like, is it more ... The harder ones to treat, obviously brain damage, but maybe like a long history of abuse or trauma?
Dr Daniel Amen: If you could choose who you fall in love with, how would you screen them?
Speaker 1: Yes. Exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen: In my book, The Brain and Love, there's a whole chapter on this, because I think it's very important for people to be thoughtful about the people they fall in love with. I always say use your head before you give your heart away to someone. I recommend you actually ask them a number of questions, like, "Tell me about the people in your family?" Now, you're going to take a psychiatric family history, but you're not going to phrase it that way, right? Because nobody would like that, but you're going to ... You know, "Tell me about your mom? Tell me about your relationship with your mom? Tell me about your dad? Tell me about your relationship with your dad?" Then you watch their behavior. Before you hop under the covers with someone, you know, you might get to know them a little bit and see how they are and how their people are.
If they get drunk on their first date with you, you know, if you're really lonely you can find all sorts of excuses for that, but it's a bad sign. I call them seeing the dead animals around the oasis of love. The analogy is when you're not in love, you're sort of in a desert, and you don't like that. I mean, as humans we are a pair bonded species. You meet someone and okay, now you're at the oasis, so you completely don't see the dead animals around the oasis. Are you with me so far with the analogy? Getting drunk on your first date is a dead animal. Hating their ex-spouse is a dead animal. You should be paying attention to that because they chose that stuff. You know, being disrespectful to their partners, being sort of chronically negative.
Now I have to tell you, family history does not always disqualify people. My beautiful daughter married someone whose mother has paranoid schizophrenia and his father killed himself. Now, it made me very nervous, but as the tendency is in my family: if you date any of my children, you have to get scanned.
Paul: Dr. Amen, some of us are reluctant to take a lot of prescription medications. Are there nutritional supplements that can be taken in lieu of prescription medications? If so, are all the supplements the same? Do we just go buy the cheapest one available?
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, Paul, that's a great question. I'm a classically-trained psychiatrist, so in my program they did not talk one wit about alternative things to do for treating psychiatric illness. It was just by listening to my patients, and they'd go, "You know, I tried St. John's Wort. It made a big difference for me," and then I'd go look at the literature, and what I found: there is a huge scientific literature on using natural vitamins, herbs, supplements, to help enhance brain function. Also, as a psychiatrist, I would always think: if this was my mother or this was my wife, how would I treat them? You know, how would I treat the people I care most about? I have to tell you, I'd almost always start with natural supplements, because they have fewer side effects, they tend to work, they're less expensive and they don't affect your insurability.
Now, they're not all made equal. There are some brands that are reliable and that you can trust, and there are others that are totally unreliable. My biggest concern is most people's consultant is the teenage clerk at the grocery store, and that's just crazy. Some of you know, you know, the Amen Clinic says there online, and people go, "Why do you have that? You know it's just to make money." That's not true at all. In fact, I resisted it for a long time, but it was so hard. We treat a high ADD population. If they didn't get it when they walked out of our office, they would never get it. Right? Because they get distracted. Plus, we knew who are the biggest companies that had the best track records that ... You know, they did the right lab analysis on the supplements.
We partnered with some of the best companies in the world, and we have very strong confidence in the kind of supplements that we sell. There are a lot of great supplements. In my book, Magnificent Mind, I talk a lot about this issue.
Speaker 4: I had a question specifically about the hormones in relation to menopause for females. I know we have chemical hormones that we could take supplementally, or bio-identical hormones that we could take supplementally, or nothing. My question is: which of these types of hormones, or no hormones, would you recommend? For how long would you recommend that someone take them or not take them?
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, that's a great question. Angie, come and join us. Let me introduce you to ... This is Dr. Angie [Meeker 00:06:18], who is a doctor of pharmacy, and has spent the last ten years working with women, helping them to balance their hormones with synthetic hormones, bio-identical hormones and so on. Help me answer this question.
Dr. Meeker: Well, the major hormone that has been studied in the brain, as far as estrogen goes, is estradiol, which is a bio-identical hormone. To answer the question about what would be the best hormone to take for the brain, all of the studies that have been done that have looked at the effects of estradiol on the brain have been very positive, so I think your answer is, yes, a bio-identical. Meaning an identical molecule to the human body. For how long to take hormones, that's a very individual question, and it really depends on a patient's history, a patient's family history, and a patient's specific situation. It really, really is so highly variable. I don't know that there's one single answer for tat.
Dr Daniel Amen: Although our bias, my bias, would be bio-identical hormones, because the studies on the synthetic hormones are not all that great, and they're fraught with more problems. If you don't have estrogen, we know ... Say a woman had a hysterectomy. Didn't have any estrogen replacement. She now has double the risk for Alzheimer's disease. I often recommend hormone replacement, unless you have a family history of breast cancer or uterine cancer, and even then, they're really working hard to try and answer the question: "Can these women take hormones as well?" What we see is the blood flow to their brain is better. Because without estrogen, and a lot of people know this: your skin is not as good, you wrinkle more, your bones are not as good, your heart is not as good, and your brain is not as good. I've been encouraging a lot of my patients to really look at this issue in a thoughtful way.
Dr. Meeker: Yeah, and it's ore than just the menopausal symptoms that we see. With estrogen in the brain, we see an increased capacity to deal with pain.
Dr Daniel Amen: That is so interesting.
Dr. Meeker: It's not just the typical hormonal, menopausal symptoms. We're thinking about your entire life. As you age, you tend to experience more pain.
Dr Daniel Amen: So few psychiatrists ever think about hormones as being related to behavioral problems, or emotional problems, or cognitive problems. It's a huge area that's important to deal with so that people can have their best life. I just resent the fact when someone, you know, they'll go to a physician and they'll be whatever; 60, 70 or 80, and they'll go, "Well, you're just old. There's nothing we should do for you." I resent that. My grandma died last year, and she was what, 99? 98. It wasn't until she was 92, we scanned her. I gave her some things that just made a big, positive difference in her life. You know, I want someone taking care of me until the end, wherever the end is.
Dr. Meeker: Yeah, that's exactly true. We were talking about earlier with the drugs. You know, I can't tell you how many women come to me that have a need for hormone balance. They're on an antidepressant, they're on a sleeping medication, and an anti-anxiety medication, all three together. I just think, what do these drugs do to the brain? They don't have enough hormones, so that's going to affect your brain in a negative way, and we're giving drugs on top of that to sort of falsely suppress parts of the brain. It's sort of like, to me, a double hit. Do you agree?
Dr Daniel Amen: Absolutely. When you look at the anti-anxiety medicines and the sleep medicines, they are not brain healthy. They decrease brain activity, so where if you could have given her progesterone, for example, which is the brain's own natural anxiety hormone, it could have made just a huge difference by itself. This is a very exciting area of clinical practice and research. Thank you so much.
Dr. Meeker: Thank you.