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Can You Really Keep Your Brain from Aging?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

People often underestimate the importance of exercising your brain to keep cognitive decline at bay. So what can you do to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best? In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their live class by explaining the concept of brain retirement and aging, and how to work out your brain properly.

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Dr Daniel Amen:               Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                        And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.

Dr Daniel Amen:               The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit AmenClinics.com.

Tana Amen:                        The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to BrainMD.com.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                        And I’m Tana Amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:               We’re so excited you’re with us. For this week’s series, what we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the end of mental illness.

Tana Amen:                        We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class, and the people who joined us just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So, we wanted to share this with you, and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, if I was an evil ruler, I would … and I wanted to increase your risk of blood flow problems, I would create a culture where people start the mornings with caffeine and end the days with alcohol, because both lower blood flow to the brain. If I was a good ruler, I would limit video games, screen time, so that people would spend more time outdoors exercising.

Tana Amen:                        What about brain-enhancing games?

Dr Daniel Amen:               Brain-enhancing games can be really great, but they can be addictive as well.

Tana Amen:                        Okay.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Where you just-

Tana Amen:                        Like Scrabble.

Dr Daniel Amen:               You look more forward to playing your games on your phone than actually talking to your husband.

Tana Amen:                        No, I just like beating you at it.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Yes, I know you do. It really makes you happy when I lose.

Tana Amen:                        It does. It just does.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Light therapy can also help. Light therapy has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, improve your mood, your focus, your energy, and your sleep. And Brain MD, I’m very excited. I think the link is going to go up tomorrow on the website of our new Bright Minds Light Therapy box. And why? Because it just completely fits, first do no harm. And bright light therapy … so, a half an hour in the morning. Don’t look at the light. Have it come at you from the side.

Tana Amen:                        So, if you’re getting ready in the morning, you can just set it next to you?

Dr Daniel Amen:               Right.

Tana Amen:                        That’s very cool.

Dr Daniel Amen:               For just 20 to 30 minutes, it’s been shown to increase energy, increase focus, increase your mood, reset your circadian rhythm, your sleep rhythm, and actually helps you sleep.

Tana Amen:                        Why is she looking at it?

Dr Daniel Amen:               She’s got her eyes closed. She actually should have it off to the side.

Tana Amen:                        I see.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Thank you for criticizing my slide. You’re right, actually. The R is retirement and aging. I hate this one, but when you stop learning, your brain starts dying. And notice, like the question about the 49 year old that thought they were old, I have people complaining about their memory in their 20s or their 30s. And they go, “Oh, well, I’m 30. That means I’m old.” Which, to me, is sort of hysterical. Or, “I’m 40 and my memory’s no good. Well, that’s normal.” No, that’s not normal, it’s because you have bad habits.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, here’s the hippocampus, the little seahorse-shaped structure in the brain, and at the end of Memory Rescue I wrote a story about Scarlet and Sam the seahorse twins, so you’ll see them throughout part of the presentation. And here they are making new baby seahorses, 700 of them every day.

Dr Daniel Amen:               On this slide, you see a healthy SPECT scan on the left, an average 55 year old scan, so generally it means not good news, and an average, terrible looking 82 year old brain. But it doesn’t have to be like this. My 92 year old grandmother, when I scanned her, had a really good looking brain.

Tana Amen:                        That’s your mom’s mom?

Dr Daniel Amen:               My mom’s mom.

Tana Amen:                        That makes sense.

Dr Daniel Amen:               And that fits my mom’s brain, who was also good. But I never want you to forget this. When you stop learning, your brain starts dying. So, always being engaged in learning new things is incredibly important for you to keep your brain young.

Tana Amen:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, here’s Samantha. 68 years old. She came to see us, she had really sleepy frontal lobes, that’s a bad thing. Focus, forethought, judgment, impulse control, and she started playing ping pong as a way to keep her brain young. But the problem was, her husband beat her every game, and he even started to play left handed. Maybe I should do that. He started playing left handed, but she was still losing. And then she went on Brain and Body Power Max. It’s our multiple vitamin, fish oil brain boost, and she said after about a week she started beating him every game, and it happened overnight, which he didn’t like. And so, we did a followup scan and her brain was healthier. You are not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better, and when you make it better, you have a better life. And so, your ping pong game is better. And if you’re like Tana and you’re a little bit competitive-

Tana Amen:                        Just a [crosstalk [00:06:40].

Dr Daniel Amen:               Then you win more. It makes you happier.

Tana Amen:                        Makes me happy.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Makes you happier. So, how do you know if your brain is prematurely aging? Well, you can get a scan. I showed you [inaudible [00:06:52] scan. At 13, her brain looked like she was 75, which … horrifying. If you’re older than 50, you just need to get over it and get serious. Remember when I was doing one of my early shows, I was practicing. I go over to my mom’s house to practice because my mom is loving and sweet and brutally honest.

Tana Amen:                        That’s why I love her. She and I get along.

Dr Daniel Amen:               She’s so honest. Oh, I’m bored, or oh, I don’t like that story. And so she invites her friends to come over and hear me rehearse.

Tana Amen:                        You say the same thing about me, though.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Yes, maybe that’s why I like you, because I really like her, too. And one of her friends was like 65, and as she heard me rehearse the script, she goes, “Oh, now that I’m older, I did that. I dieted, I exercised. I don’t want to do that anymore.” And it sort of took me back a little bit. And then I looked at her, and I said, “As long as you’re okay with the consequences of not taking care of your brain, which generally is a lousy memory and depression, then I guess you shouldn’t be concerned about it.” But if you want quality of life, it’s not lifespan. It’s … you taught me this word.

Tana Amen:                        Health span.

Dr Daniel Amen:               It’s health span. If you want health span, the older you get, the more serious you need to be, because the gravity of age is coming for you. So, just like as we age our skin falls off our face, that same process is happening in the brain. But it doesn’t have to.

Dr Daniel Amen:               If you’re not engaged in lifelong learning, so learning a language, traveling, learning a new science, learning a new hobby, learning to play ping pong, then it puts you at risk. If you’re lonely, I hate that. And we’ve had tragedies this week. On Sunday, we were just horrified when we found out about Kobe Bryant and his daughter.

Tana Amen:                        And three families, three teenagers and their parents.

Dr Daniel Amen:               The other families and the pilot all lost their lives, and as people get older, they have more losses, and if you’re not-

Tana Amen:                        I just can’t imagine what those families are going through.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Actively engaged with volunteering, making a difference, it’s bad for your brain. We are a bonded species. If you’re a polar bear, you could do just fine alone, but by and large, we’re not polar bears. If your iron levels-

Tana Amen:                        By and large?

Dr Daniel Amen:               Well, you could be a polar bear.

Tana Amen:                        I could.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Especially if you torment me. High iron levels. People go, “Should I eat red meat?” And I’m like, “Well, it depends. How’s your iron?” If your iron’s low, like yours tends to be low, then red meat is fine, as long as it’s hormone free and antibiotic free and grass fed.

Tana Amen:                        Clean. Clean, clean, clean.

Dr Daniel Amen:               It’s clean. If your iron’s like mine, mine tends to run high, less red meat, the better for me, because red meat is high in iron, which is why I donate blood on a regular basis to keep my iron at a healthy level. And if you have old telomeres. So, telomeres are the end caps on genes that actually hold the genetic material together. Think of them like shoelaces, the plastic caps on shoelaces. And you can actually measure your telomeres. When I measured mine, I was 63, but my genetic age said was 43, so I was actually younger than you.

Tana Amen:                        I didn’t measure mine, so you can’t say that.

Dr Daniel Amen:               No, no, I was actually younger than your real age.

Tana Amen:                        Right, but maybe I was 25.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Well, you like dating younger people.

Tana Amen:                        No, I don’t, actually.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Anyway, so how do you keep your brain from aging? New learning. Volunteering. There’s this fascinating study from Baltimore where they measured the hippocampus over two years. In one group, they volunteered, and the other group, they just kept doing what they usually did. And after two years they did another MRI looking at the structure of the hippocampus, so how big is your seahorse, and for the control group, as expected, it shrunk. For the volunteering group, it grew.

Tana Amen:                        Interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, being actively engaged in purposeful activity is good for your brain. Social connections, actively fight loneliness. Now, one of the reasons … this is going to sound harsh. Oh, here. Marilyn goes, “By and large, that’s a good one.”

Tana Amen:                        See? I wasn’t the only one.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, let me digress just for a minute. Loneliness sometimes can be because you had a brain injury when you were young and you’re … don’t have good empathy or you have impulse control problems, and people don’t want to be around you because your brain was hurt. So, get your brain right, you have more empathy. Did I say that right?

Tana Amen:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:               Get your brain right, your relationships will be better. So, social connections, multiple vitamins, especially vitamins B and C, antioxidants, which help decrease the acceleration of aging, especially colorful foods. And then, like me, if your iron is high, you want to donate blood.

Tana Amen:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:               The I is inflammation. Do you want to talk about this one?

Tana Amen:                        Sure. Chronic inflammation damages all organs. It’s like a low level fire burning in your body at all times. So, some inflammation is necessary. You hurt yourself, you cut yourself, you get injured, you need inflammation to bring all of the cells that help heal the body to the site and help to just heal that injury. But chronic inflammation is different. It happens because of lifestyle. It happens from being sedentary, it happens from outside toxins, it happens from the food we eat, from stress. And when that happens, that’s like this low level fire that never goes out, and it’s damaging all of your organs and causing all sorts of problems like cancer, arthritis, autism, depression, dementia.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Yeah, it’s a major cause.

Tana Amen:                        And aging. Just aging in general.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Depression.

Tana Amen:                        That’s what causes aging.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Yeah, and depression is not a Prozac or a Zoloft or a Lexapro deficiency. It’s a sign your brain, and likely your body, is inflamed or in trouble.

Tana Amen:                        Sure.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, how do people know if there’s inflammation?

Tana Amen:                        Well, one of the big things is when you get your blood tested, we look at something called C reactive protein. So, if your C reactive protein is high, your CRP is high, that’s one sign of high inflammation. So, low omega three compared to high … so, your omega three omega six ratio. So, if your omega threes are low and your omega sixes are high, that’s another sign.

Dr Daniel Amen:               So omega threes are often called spring fats, because they help you live longer.

Tana Amen:                        Right, so like fish oil.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Omega sixes are in corn, soy, processed foods.

Tana Amen:                        Safflower oil.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Increase inflammation.

Tana Amen:                        Right.

Dr Daniel Amen:               And you can actually get your omega three index measured. I think LabCorp, Quest does that. There are a number of other companies that do that, like OmegaQuant. I try to do it on all my patients because when they see that their index is way too high, they take steps to quiet it down.

Tana Amen:                        Yeah, and it’s funny how fast you can start to see it turn around and it’s fun to just … I like numbers. I like to see things change.

Dr Daniel Amen:               And our Omega-3 Power, two of those a day I’ve seen in virtually all of my patients who take that, helps to normalize their omega three index.

Tana Amen:                        I know, you keep trying to convince me I don’t need to take six. I don’t know why I’m convinced I need to take six, but it’s just me. So, rosacea is another one.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Tell people what that is.

Tana Amen:                        I was just about to. Rosacea is when you see people and they have like the mask, the red mask around their face and it looks really swollen. It’s that look that looks like their face is really puffy and red through their cheeks and their nose. That’s a sign of inflammation. So, rosacea … yeah, I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s a sign of inflammation. Pain-

Dr Daniel Amen:               You often see it in alcoholics.

Tana Amen:                        Yeah, well, it looks like that. It’s not necessarily exactly the same, but that’s what it looks like. That red nose-

Dr Daniel Amen:               But they could be inflamed.

Tana Amen:                        But that is from drinking, but it’s not the same as people … because people don’t … often get it, and they’re not drinkers at all, so it’s different.

Dr Daniel Amen:               And then it’s inflammation.

Tana Amen:                        So pain, chronic pain, so people who have joint pain or fibromyalgia, one of the first things we hear when they clean up their diet is, “My pain went away. I got off my medication for fibromyalgia.” Because inflammation is one of the major causes of chronic pain. Processed food. Why? Because processed food increases omega six fatty acids, it increases inflammation, and that’s why people, when they eat a lot of processed food, will tend to increase all of those things.

Tana Amen:                        So, gum disease, because that definitely increases inflammation.

Dr Daniel Amen:               And it’s one of the major causes of heart disease.

Tana Amen:                        Right.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Dementia and depression.

Tana Amen:                        We’ve known that for a while.

Dr Daniel Amen:               You have to take care of your teeth.

Tana Amen:                        Yeah. One of the things I love, and this is something I learned … I don’t know, I learned it at one of my [inaudible [00:17:02] classes years ago and I asked my dentist, and she said, “Absolutely spot on. Do this.” I get a water pick, they call it water flossing now, a water pick, and I put just a few drops of bleach. Straight plain bleach, don’t get all the fancy whatever, it can’t have anything else in it. Plain bleach, and you floss with that. And so, it’s actually supposed to be really good for you. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s actually good for you.

Tana Amen:                        So, leaky gut. That’s why the diet we suggest is to help you heal your leaky gut, because leaky gut, any time your gut’s not healthy, your brain is not going to be healthy and it increases inflammation.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Pop quiz. Where are three quarters of your neurotransmitters made?

Tana Amen:                        Our group knows this. I know they know this.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Do you know?

Tana Amen:                        Of course I know.

Dr Daniel Amen:               Your gut is called your second brain because it’s loaded with nervous tissue, which is why you get butterflies when you’re excited, loose stools when you’re upset, and probiotics can help the brain.

Tana Amen:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, how to decrease inflammation. Omega threes, healthy nutrition, curcumins, and like you said, floss.

Tana Amen:                        And light exercise will help, too.

Dr Daniel Amen:               We published this study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Higher omega three, healthier hippocampus.

Tana Amen:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Daniel Amen:               So, if I was an evil ruler, I would put fast food restaurants everywhere.

Tana Amen:                        Especially at school.

Dr Daniel Amen:               [crosstalk [00:18:26] everywhere.

Tana Amen:                        If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.

Dr Daniel Amen:               If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10 percent discount on a full evaluation at AmenClinics.com or a 10 percent discount on all supplements at BrainMDHealth.com. For more information, give us a call at tel:18559781363.