How To Optimize Your Brain Right Now

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

As Daniel G. Amen, M.D., explains in his brand-new book, Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, optimizing the brain is one of the most effective ways to put yourself on the path to feeling better. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Amen is joined by his wife Tana for more brain-healthy advice on topics such as getting your important numbers checked, diet, and sleep issues.


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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. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're on our Feel Better Fast and Make It Last series. We're still working on B for brain and our BRIGHT MINDS mnemonic. You want to feel better fast, you have to optimize the physical functioning of your brain. And how you do that is you have brain envy, you care about it, and then you avoid things that hurt it and do things that help it. And we've talked about blood flow, retirement and aging, inflammation, genetics, head trauma, toxins, mental health, and immunity. In this podcast, we're going to finish BRIGHT MINDS by talking about neurohormone deficiencies, diabesity, and sleep.
When your hormones are not right, in fact, you just talked about-
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... that when your hormones aren't right, you feel terrible.
Tana Amen: Oh, no. You can want to die. Okay? I remember wanting to die, just wishing a truck would hit me. It's really important when you have thoughts like that, when you feel ... Even just recently, it was very different. When my thyroid was off, I wanted to die. But when I had a hysterectomy recently, it didn't do the same thing, but just from being down for so long and just the anesthesia and stuff like that. But when your hormones are off, I felt like a wet blanket was on me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and if you think about ... The anesthesia is a toxin. People don't know that, but I've actually seen it hurt people's brains, and there's a whole literature to support that. There's the stress of the procedure, the pain, the having to be down. Plus, you have a busy brain. You have-
Tana Amen: I need to exercise.
Dr Daniel Amen: You need more serotonin-
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... as do many women.
Tana Amen: I get depressed when I'm down.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you use exercise as an antidepressant. We already talked about that. And so when you can't exercise-
Tana Amen: I start to get wonky.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... it's harder for you. And so all of those things-
Tana Amen: But it's really important to get these things checked because when you start having thoughts like that, so many people blame it on, "Oh, I'm getting older." No, that's a bad excuse. Go get your numbers checked. Get your hormones checked. Get your thyroid checked. Get your vitamin D level checked. Sometimes-
Dr Daniel Amen: Get your DHEA, testosterone, insulin.
Tana Amen: Sometimes it's an easy fix.
Dr Daniel Amen: For women, estrogen and progesterone, get those levels checked. And I'm a huge fan of optimization. I want your levels not low normal, but I want a mid-range to high normal so that you can get the most benefit from the hormones you take. Now, I don't want them excessively high.
Tana Amen: No. We're not talking vanity. No.
Dr Daniel Amen: I see some guys that their testosterone level is 1,500. That's a bad thing because then you become like a super guy, even less empathy and a higher libido, which is the prescription for an affair and a divorce.
Tana Amen: Well, and you become more aggressive. You become aggressive, and you're more likely to cheat.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. So it's about balance. So just as Tana said, we believe you should test your important numbers, including your hormones, every year, so you know where you are.
Now, the D in BRIGHT MINDS is diabesity, which is a huge problem in the United States. 40% of us are obese, 70% overweight. It's the biggest brain drain in the history of the United States. I published two studies that show as your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. In addition, 50% of us are either diabetic or prediabetic. That is a very dangerous combination of negativity for your brain. And so balancing your blood sugar with diet, which we'll talk about a little bit later on, and getting your weight under control with high quality calories and not too many of them, really critically important.
And you can read our book, The Brain Warrior's Way. I mean, just yesterday, I got pictures of a guy-
Tana Amen: I know. It was great.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... that dropped 40 pounds, and it's amazing how much better he looked. And he said, "I am a brain warrior," which is, you're listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. That's what we want you to be — armed, prepared, and aware to win the fight of your life for brain health.
And then to feel better fast, you got to get your sleep right. If you don't sleep well ... I mean, we had this discussion this morning. If you don't sleep well, you just don't feel right. Plus, if you don't get seven hours of sleep at night, you'll have low overall blood flow to your brain, which means you're going to make more bad decisions.
Tana Amen: Some of us need more. I need like eight and a half. Two nights in a row now we've been so busy I got less than seven, like a little less than seven. I feel hungover. For me, I know I shouldn't be driving. So it can be really bad.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, it's one of the most ... There's actually more people killed every year-
Tana Amen: I know.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... from lack of sleep than from drunk drivers. And so it's critical. You want to feel better fast, you got to get your sleep right. And ultimately, we've talked about brain health is three things. It's brain envy, got to care about it. Avoid things that hurt it, any of the BRIGHT MINDS risk factors. And do things that help it, the BRIGHT MINDS interventions that we've been talking about.
With sleep, you have to have sleep envy. You have to know how important it is because when you sleep, your brain cleans or washes itself, so you want to avoid anything that hurts sleep and do things that help. So the things that hurt sleep, staying on your gadgets too late because it floods your brain with blue lights that turns off the production of melatonin that tells you to go to bed.
Alcohol. And alcohol, many people use it, you even talked about earlier how many of the nurses used it to go to sleep in the morning if they worked the night shift. But the problem with alcohol is it will help you go to sleep, it will suppress neurons, but then about three hours later when it wears off, neurons will rebound up and wake you up. In addition, it'll make you go to the bathroom, so you're going to be up going to the bathroom.
So avoid bright lights, alcohol, a warm room, noise, unless the noise is the ocean.
Tana Amen: We actually have a podcast on sleep specifically where we go through all of this, all of the things you can do, identify what's stealing your sleep and how to fix it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. And hypnosis, meditation. I have little rituals at night before-
Tana Amen: Me, too.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... I go to sleep. And just put the time in to make sure you have time. So if you need to go to bed earlier, do that. Tom Brady, the football player, he actually plans on getting nine hours of sleep every night because he knows his brain-
Tana Amen: Yeah, I need eight and a half.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... works better. So in summary, the B in BRAIN-XL in Feel Better Fast is you got to get your brain right. Brain envy. You got to care about it. Do things that help it, and avoid things that hurt it. And if you do that, it's unbelievably how much better you can feel.
We were just at a conference on marriage given by our friend Steve Arterburn. And Steve, he's a really well-known author, radio host. He came to see me, I guess about five years ago now, and he was scattered and impulsive and-
Tana Amen: And he does really important work, so it's important that he-
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. And his memory wasn't as good, and he came to see me, and his brain just looked terrible. And I basically gave him the BRIGHT MINDS prescription that we just gave you, and a couple of months into it, I got an email from him that he said ... and this is like 10 o'clock at night, and he said, "My confirmation number" for his rental car in Aruba, and it was an 11-digit number, and he tells me what it is. And I'm thinking, "Why do I care?" And then the next sentence is, "My hotel confirmation was," and I'm thinking-
Tana Amen: "Why do I care?"
Dr Daniel Amen: ... "Why do I care?" I get 400 emails a day. I'm always trying to keep up. And he said the reason that I know this is I'm supernaturally able to remember things, and they don't go away.
Tana Amen: So funny.
Dr Daniel Amen: He said, "My productivity and creativity is off the charts. My relationship with my wife is better." And this is only a few months into it, and it's just transformed his life by doing the right things. So if you want to feel better fast-
Tana Amen: And one of the reasons that's so important is because Steve does marriage counseling and marriage retreats, right? He's got a great book, Every Man's Battle. And what he does is he's trying to help people have better marriages. Well, you're not going to have a better marriage if your brain sucks. I mean, pardon my French, but that's just the truth.
Dr Daniel Amen: Is that French?
Tana Amen: Yeah, well ... Anyways. You're not going to have a good marriage if you have a terrible brain because you're not going to have forethought. And what does our friend Earl Henslin say?
Dr Daniel Amen: "If there's no forethought, there's no foreplay."
Tana Amen: Yikes.
Dr Daniel Amen: Feel Better Fast.
Tana Amen: And have a better marriage.
Dr Daniel Amen: Preorder the book at And when you do, we have four gifts for you including Tana's brand new cookbook, The 10-Day Brain Boost. Stay with us.
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