How You Keep Your Mind & Memory Sharp with Leeza Gibbons

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

With 2 million new brain injuries occurring in the U.S. every year, brain health is more important than ever. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and TV personality Leeza Gibbons continue their discussion on how to maintain your brain to keep your mind and memory functioning at full capacity.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warriors 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 Warriors 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 Warriors Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD 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 Warriors Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. So we're talking about Alzheimer's disease and how to avoid it. How to do the right things. And we talked about blood flow, retirement, and aging, inflammation, genetics, head trauma. And big lesson I learned early from imaging is mild traumatic brain injury ruins people's lives and nobody knows about it. And-
Leeza Gibbons: Like someone has a car wreck, someone falls off a bike or you're talking that even as a child.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Or they fell off a horse. We know what killed Superman was a horse. They played football, hockey, soccer, and they had header drills. Which when you think about it from my perspective, it's just insanity. There are 2 million new brain injuries every year in the United States. So if you think about it, over the last 40 years, there's probably 80 million people walking around the United States that have had a significant brain injury.
Leeza Gibbons: It's affecting them negatively. In life, in love, at work. All kinds of reasons. And they don't know. They aren't able to trace it back to.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They don't even think about it.
Leeza Gibbons: Didn't think about it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, because they end up seeing a psychiatrist who neither never asks or they ask once and what I've found is I have to ask people 10 times whether or not they've had a head injury because they go, "No, no, no." And I'm like, "Well, are you sure?" And it's like, "Oh, when I was seven I fell out of a second story window." It's like, "Do you think that counts?" Maybe. And your brain is soft.
Leeza Gibbons: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And your skull is hard. And your skull has sharp bony ridges. And people don't get it. They think of the brain as firm, fixed, and rubbery because that's how it is in an anatomy lab. But in a human skull, it's soft butter. Tofu, custard. Somewhere between egg whites and jello. And it houses your soul. Your intelligence. Every decision you make. And if you damage it, you begin to damage those things. And one study stands out. They looked at the homeless men in Toronto. 58% of them had a significant brain injury before they were homeless.
Leeza Gibbons: Really?
Dr. Daniel Amen: 42% of the homeless women.
Leeza Gibbons: Is that right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it's a major cause of dementia and nobody knows about it because they're not scanning people.
Leeza Gibbons: And is it, Dr. Amen, not just perhaps the falling out of a window or off of a horse, but repeated little dings from sports? Like maybe you didn't pass out. Maybe you didn't have a concussion. But you're a hockey player, a football player, a soccer player, and you're continuing to get.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So they looked at high school kids. They put sensors in their helmets and they scanned them before the season and after the season. And what they found, sometimes the hits, where there was no loss of consciousness, had the G forces that were as bad as a head-on collision at 40 miles an hour.
Leeza Gibbons: Wow.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the white matter in the brain. And white matter ... So gray matter is ... Everybody's heard about that. It's the brain cell bodies. White matter are the nerve cell tracks. So think of white matter is the streets, as the bridges, as the freeways. And one season in high school disrupted white matter in the brain without a concussion because just as you were saying, it's the repetitive hits. And Joe Louis actually said that. The famous boxer. He said it's not the big hits that give you dementia. It's the thousands of little hits. And one of my favorite all-time scans is Muhammad Ali. And his brain. And he won most of his fights. But his brain clearly was troubled.
Leeza Gibbons: And those repeated hits, part of what led to the Parkinson's?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes.
Leeza Gibbons: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And another thing with head trauma we were sharing about our dogs is my dog just doesn't get it that I feed him. He leaves his toys on the stairs. And if I'm not thoughtful, he is going to take me out. And you have to be thoughtful. Especially the older you get, because what really kills older people? It's falls. And then it's brain bleeds or broken hips that then lead to blood clots and so on. So the thing to do for head trauma is don't do it.
Leeza Gibbons: Don't. Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right? And we were talking about my friend, our friend [Jalene Johnson 00:05:42], and she got her scan. And it didn't look good. And then two years later it's better. And every time we talk, we go over the 11 risk factors. And I'm just like, "So what are you doing differently for head trauma?" And she goes, "I don't ski anymore." She's like, "I used to love to ski without a helmet because I'm a bit of a daredevil." And she's like, "I just don't need to do that because I love my brain."
Leeza Gibbons: I know there are a lot of moms out there in particular and dads who struggle with the sports question because of all the wonderful benefits of sports, and being on teams, and all the great things that come as a result of it. And I hope that as a society, we begin to incorporate some of this learning into our love of sports and our way of executing sports so that we aren't unknowingly putting our kids at greater risk when they are 10, 12, 14 years old.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, the American New Soccer Organization banned heading for children under 11. And I'm like, "They don't like 11 year olds, they don't like 12 year olds. When does the brain actually finish developing?" It's like 25 in girls. And somewhere like 28 in boys. Right? Both of us have boys and girls. And we sort of get that. The T is so important-
Leeza Gibbons: We're talking bright minds, the pneumonic or risk factor. And we've done BRIGH.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And now we have T which are toxins. And they're everywhere. They are from the products you put on your body. Things like parabens and phthalates that steal your hormones, which we'll talk about. There's alcohol. We have this idea for many years, alcohol is a health food. And now there's a direct correlation between alcohol and cancer.
Leeza Gibbons: Yeah, he ruined this one for me with wine. Ruined.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Only because I love you.
Leeza Gibbons: Ruined.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And we just published this study on marijuana and how it accelerates aging even though it's legal in 31 states and everybody thinks of it as innocuous. It's not. And mold. We talked about that. That mold exposure, if you had water damage in your house, I mean, you have to be careful. And so the simple things to do for toxins is avoid exposure. And then support the four organs of detoxification. So water, to flush stuff out through your kidneys. Fiber, to flush it out through your gut. Kill the alcohol, so your liver's not bad. And eat brassicas so those are detox fine vegetables. And sweat. With exercise and saunas.
Leeza Gibbons: Interesting about saunas. Now, is there a danger in a sauna of heating up your brain or is that okay?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I hear [inaudible 00:08:45] in Northern Europe. There's a study from Finland where people who took no saunas. So it was zero to one a week compared to three to five a week. Compared to five to seven a week. So compared to none, three times a week was associated with a 30% decrease risk in Alzheimer's disease. Five to seven times was associated with a 60% decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Leeza Gibbons: Because of the sweat?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So get in the sauna. It's not just that.
Leeza Gibbons: Just that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's also it produces something called heat shock proteins that have an anti-inflammatory effect. And there's a study in JAMA Psychiatry. One sauna session was found to work as an anti-depressant.
Leeza Gibbons: Oh, that's amazing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because likely, the calming the inflammation.
Leeza Gibbons: That's really amazing. And talk about hopeful and positive.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's so many simple things you can do.
Leeza Gibbons: And no pain.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I recommend this app for people called Think Dirty where you can actually scan all of your personal products and it'll tell you on a scale of one to 10 how quickly they're killing you.
Leeza Gibbons: Whether it's your sunscreen, or your deodorant, or anything.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So quickly on the other ones, M is mental health. So you brought it up that depression increases the risk. So you gotta take care of it. The second I is immunity and infections. There's a new study that just came out. 50% of people with Alzheimer's disease had herpes tires in it. So be very careful who you kiss. I think infectious disease is gonna be a whole subspecialty of psychiatry. N stands for neuro hormone ... So with immunity you want to know your vitamin D level and make sure it's optimal. Right? I never like normal. Right, I don't want to be normal because normal is a 50% risk of Alzheimer's disease at 85. I want to be in the optimal ranges. And for me, for vitamin D, it's 60 to 100.
Leeza Gibbons: So either get more sun, or take the supplements, or both.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Correct. And just get the sun responsibly.
Leeza Gibbons: Responsibly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, because getting burned is not good for you.
The N is neuro hormone deficiencies. They're just rampant. So for women, it's often hormone replacement. After 50, we don't want your levels like when you were 20. But we also don't want them like when you're 80. We want them to be healthy and you only know if you measure them. Testosterone, low testosterone is rampant. Even in teenage boys, it's horrifying because of head trauma-
Leeza Gibbons: That's counterintuitive.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It is because of head trauma and the toxins. Because things like parabens and phthalates, what they're called is endocrine disruptors. They're hormone disruptors. They steal your hormones. Plus our high sugar diet. If you want to drop your testosterone, just eat a couple of donuts. It'll drop your testosterone by 25%. And testosterone is involved in our libido. So I always say, if you share the cheesecake at the restaurant, nobody's getting dessert [crosstalk 00:12:05]
Leeza Gibbons: No dessert when you get home.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So-
Leeza Gibbons: You'll remember that one.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So hormones, get them checked and then optimized. The D is the one I'm worried about the most. It's diobesity. It's a combination, it's either or. You have high blood sugar. So you're either diabetic, or pre-diabetic. Or you're overweight or obese. And given that 50% of us according to JAMA are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Whoa. And 70% of us are overweight or obese. It's the biggest brain drain in the history of the United States.
Leeza Gibbons: Well, you say, and I always remember this that the bigger the body, the smaller the brain.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I published two studies that show as your weight goes up, the size of your brain goes down. I was like, "Well, why would that be?" The fat on your body is not your friend. It stores toxins. So that's a risk factor. It increases inflammatory chemicals. It's another risk factor. And it takes healthy testosterone and flips it into unhealthy cancer promoting forms of estrogen. And so you see all of these pregnant men in our society. With the big ... I'm like, "Dude, deliver the baby. This is not a good thing for you." And that's why. Because I always ... Why am I a psychiatrist? Why do I really care about weight loss? And it's because our society's just going the wrong way.
Leeza Gibbons: What is the formula of your waist size to your height?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So your waist, you want it to be half your height or less. So I'm 5'6" so that's 66 inches. My waist needs to be 33 inches or less. And that's actually a better predictor of health than your body mass index.
Leeza Gibbons: That's so interesting to me. And it's also really helpful that you've come up with this pneumonic to think about the risk factors with BRIGHT MINDS. That makes it much easier for us to understand and recall what they are so we can get on with the business of changing them.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And S is sleep. And we've found sleep apnea triples the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Leeza Gibbons: Triples the risk. And is that in men or women or is it different?
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's the same. We can see it on scans. Their scans look like they have early Alzheimer's disease.
Leeza Gibbons: So people that are watching this podcast, they go, "Alright, how do I know if I have sleep apnea?" Obviously, if you're sleeping with someone they may know.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're snoring, if you're stopping breathing. But you'll know if you're tired during the day. If you never feel rested, you should have it checked. It's really important. And you need to make sleep a priority.
Leeza Gibbons: So have a sleep study when you say have it checked?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes. Talk to your doctor about having a sleep study.
Now when we come back, we're gonna talk about Lisa's Care Connection and some tips for people who are caring for people who have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.
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