How To Keep Your Memory Strong As You Age, with Joan Lunden

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

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately forgotten why you came in? You’re not alone. In fact, that’s the title of former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden’s new book. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen are once again joined by Joan for a discussion on how to keep your mind and memory strong, even as the aging slowly process begins to work against you.

For more info on Joan’s new book “Why Did I Come Into this Room?’ visit

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Daniel Amen, MD:

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

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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

Dr Daniel Amen :             Welcome back. We’re here with Joan Lunden, having a fabulous time talking about her new book. Why Did I Come Into This Room? Joan-

Joan Lunden :                   Yes?

Dr Daniel Amen :             So many people complain about memory, and Alzheimer’s is expected to triple in the next 25 years. And if you’re blessed to live to 85, you have a 50% chance, five zero percent chance of being diagnosed with dementia, one form or another. And I know you’re not okay with those odds, and neither am I. But the exciting thing is you can do something about it. In your research, what were some of the most important factors that you learned about aging and memory?

Joan Lunden :                   Well, besides the obvious, which is eating healthy, as clean as possible, nutrient dense proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits, and also not gorging yourself. Those are the obvious, but also drinking alcohol and smoking, some of these things to stay away from them, which is just making good lifestyle choices. And then challenging your brain. And they say that the best way is to learn something completely new, a new language, a new instrument, something new, something you didn’t know before. Because as Dr. Amen will tell us, there was a time when the experts thought that we were born with a certain amount of neurons, and that was it. And then they started deteriorating. Now we know that we can grow new neurons. So if you challenge your brain, you can grow new neurons.

But the neurons that you create with exercise, those are the neurons that are the most adept … Correct me if I’m wrong, Dr. Amen. Those are the ones that are most adept at connecting to the central system. And that’s really what they need to do. So as soon as I learned that going out and doing my power walk and my jog, wasn’t just for my waistline, it was to keep my cognitive thinking. And that, that was the best way, then I couldn’t put my sneakers on fast enough. So that’s what I try these days, to make sure that I do. That I get in that exercise, really good aerobic exercise, and that I challenge my brain. My choice of brain challenges are jigsaw puzzles. And the problem is, I’ve gotten so good at them, that I don’t think they’re challenging enough anymore.

So then I picked up this book of crossword puzzles, and I thought, I’ve never done crossword puzzles. I don’t know why, but I’ve never done them. So I tried one, and I was horrible. And I thought, great, this is a fabulous brain teaser, something that I’m not really that good at. But I’m just always trying to do something new and different, and to challenge my brain, because my mom had dementia. We started seeing signs of it, maybe late 70s. Really, I think it was the early 80s maybe. But she dealt with dementia. She didn’t die until she was almost 95. And she was pretty healthy until the end. But that loss of cognitive thinking, and that dementia that set in, it ruled her life in her last five to eight years.

Tana Amen :                     You mentioned one thing when you talked about exercise, one of the reasons exercise we know is the fountain of youth, is because it releases something called BDNF. Which is just so important, not only for keeping us young, but also for your brain health. So maybe you want to talk to them a little bit about BDNF in the brain and exercise. Because it’s just such an important-

Dr Daniel Amen :             [crosstalk [00:04:57] our brain derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophic growing the brain. So exercise does that. But what you were talking about is so smart, it’s exercise and new learning. And if you can do new learning while you’re exercising it actually is strong-

Tana Amen :                     Which is why I love martial arts. I don’t get hit in the head. I don’t want them hitting me in the head. I like to hit other people, but I don’t like to get hit. But it’s because it’s so complicated. It’s complex moves, right? It’s really great.

Joan Lunden :                   It’s the same thing I do. I have a trainer, and some days we do hip hop classes, and some days aerobics, but we’re listening to her, give us the cue of what to do. Our brain then has to tell our body to do it. And I think that, that is the best kind of exercise. Earlier today I did 45 minute Tabata, and that’s HITS training, high intensive interval training. So you do real intense 20 seconds, then rest for 10, intense for 20, rest for 10. And you do that for eight times. And then you go onto the next exercise, and you do eight exercises. And you’re listening to this person and anyone can go online and Google Tabata, T-A-B-A-T-A. It was developed by the Japanese, the guy’s last name was Tabata. And you can find all different ones.

You can pick the music you like, you can have the intervals be a minute if you want, although that’s going to kill you. Let me tell you. But 15, 10, 20, 10, pick out some music that you like. And once you click go, it will tell you everything to do. It will say, “Get ready for Tabata One, five, four, three, two workout.” And at 15, 20 seconds it will say, “Tabata One completed, rest for 10 minutes.” It will take you right through it. So it’s really a no brainer. You can do it on your laptop, your phone, whatever. But they really do … That really pumps that oxygen and all those nutrients and all that BDNF, whatever.

Tana Amen :                     Yeah, okay. And that’s the same BDNF, brain derived neurotrophic factor.

Dr Daniel Amen :             They actually found high intensity training increases the number of mitochondria in your cells. Mitochondria is a little energy power plants in each of yourselves. So if you struggle with low energy, yes, you should measure your thyroid, not demise your thyroid. But high intensity training can actually elevate your energy over time. And it’s totally something you can do at home. So you don’t have to have the excuse, the gym’s closed. I can’t do that.

Joan Lunden :                   And we know that, because people, when they don’t exercise, they’re like, “I just don’t feel good.” And if they can just make themselves do it for a week, that they [crosstalk [00:08:05]. And people who exercise have more energy, they just feel better.

Dr Daniel Amen :             And they actually looked at people who exercise for an hour, versus those who exercise for just a few minutes with high intensity training, they got the same [crosstalk [00:08:18].

Joan Lunden :                   Yeah, the HITS training. We do Tabata in martial arts. And it is addictive. It’s addictive, because it just makes you feel so good.

Tana Amen :                     And for me it’s a no brainer, because you’re listening. All you have to do is [crosstalk [00:08:28].

Joan Lunden :                   No brainer.

Yeah, that’s right. I couldn’t say no brainer to you. I think back to when I was at Good Morning America, and I was turning 40. And I had, had three children, I hadn’t lost all the weight from each one. And I knew I needed to lose weight. I was just exhausted all the time. But I used to say to myself, “God, I’m so exhausted. Now I can’t possibly work out. I’ll even be more exhausted.” But then I just completely … It took the year as I turned 39, I said, “Between 39 and 40, I’m changing my life.” I had seen the cover of a magazine, and it had the Charlie’s Angels on it. [inaudible [00:09:10] all of them, Jacqueline. And it said, “Get fabulous in 40.” And I said, “I want to be that.”

And I took that year from 39 to 40, and I’m telling you that I transformed not just my body, I transformed my life, because I was dead in charge of my energy level, instead of my energy level be parts of my life. And I found all of a sudden, even though it was hard in the beginning, that I’d come out of the gym, I’d be bouncing off the walls, I’d be so full of energy. And I would never have thought that.

Tana Amen :                  And you sleep better.

Joan Lunden :                 I slept better. And I got to tell you what had happened with that. When I was 29 years old, I got married and I married a guy who was 39 years old. Didn’t work out three great kids, but we got divorced. And 20 years later when I was 49, I got married again, and again, I married a guy who was 39. She got the math. [crosstalk [00:10:15]. What I did is, when you all of a sudden have all this energy, and you are happy with yourself, the exuberance for life that comes out of you. There’s this shininess, your eyes sparkle, your skin glows. All these things. And what it does is it attracts other people.

Tana Amen :                    Yeah.

Joan Lunden :                  But it’s got to start inside you.

Tana Amen :                     Well, I’ve been sitting here thinking, you are beautiful, and you exude this, not just energy. There’s a confidence about you. And there’s nothing more beautiful with women. So yes, you are fortunate. You are blessed, you were born beautiful, but what’s more beautiful is when that comes out. Because you see a lot of beautiful women who don’t have that. And it’s sad when you see that, because it shuts them down. But even if a woman is just somewhat attractive, but she’s got that, it’s just beautiful. And it attracts people.

Joan Lunden :                    [crosstalk [00:11:16] been doing Good Morning America, I knew that every morning at [7:00] AM that my effusiveness, my happiness for the day, that was going to be the first thing that would affect you at home, even before whatever news I had to deliver. So when I left my dressing room, I remember I used to always get down every morning and do 20 sit ups, because it just makes you sit up straighter [crosstalk [00:00:11]:45], and I’d look in the mirror, and I smiled. And I put that smile on my face. Then I was ready to leave my dressing room, go down, put my mic on, and be ready at [7:00] to say, “Good Morning America.” In a way that really affected people that were at home, dealing with whatever they were dealing with, trying to get kids up and ready for school, and get breakfast on the table. And here we were in your house, you wouldn’t have had your best friend over.

Tana Amen :                   Right.

Joan Lunden :                 But that was important. And I think that everyone can take away this. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, before you put your feet on the floor, tell yourself this is going to be an awesome day. Because the most important things you say all day long, are the things you say to yourself. And if you start that day out saying, “I’m going to have a great time today, and I’m going to accomplish things.” Or whatever it is you want to do, tell yourself before you put your feet on the floor.

Dr Daniel Amen :             I love that. It’s one of the tiny habits in The End Of Mental Illness, say, “Today is going to be a great day.

Tana Amen :                     He wakes up in the morning, and to the kids, he always ask them, “Why is today going to be a great day?” He makes them answer. They’re sitting there looking at him. He’s like, “No, you actually have to answer me.”

Dr Daniel Amen :             And at dinner we go, “What went well today?” Because where you bring your attention, always determines how you feel.

Stay with us. We’ll be back one more time with Joan Lunden, author of Why Did I Come Into This Room? Available anywhere great books are sold. Stay with us.

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.

Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.