Memory Rescue: An Overview of the 11 Risk Factors That Steal Your Memory

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

In the first episode of a 12-part series focused on Dr. Amen’s new book Memory Rescue, Dr. Amen and Tana Amen discuss the importance of keeping a sharp mind. They touch on the 11 risk factors involved in memory loss.


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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.

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.

Daniel Amen: Hey, everybody. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. This is going to be a 12-lesson series on my brand new book, Memory Rescue, coming out November 14th nationwide, and then we'll have a national public television special by the same name. We just couldn't be more excited about this topic.

Tana Amen: I'm very proud of you.

Daniel Amen: When you and I first met, your dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and you and your sisters were very worried about him. He was a recluse. He wouldn't come out of his room. He had serious memory problems. He was on multiple medications. And you looked at me and said, "What do we do?"

Tana Amen: Yeah, it was a little more complicated than that. Yes, we didn't know what to do. It was very scary. But to make matters worse, my dad and I weren't close. I hadn't spoken to him for years, so I was torn. I'm like, why is this my problem? And why am I supposed to be the one to do something about this? Which is a really icky thing to feel and think at the time when you're going through something like that, when your family's going through that. But to have that thought, "Well, he wasn't there for me. Why do I need to do this?" but at the same time knowing that you have to is frustrating. So of crouse I was asking you, "What can I do?" I was sort of thinking, what can I do from afar? But that wasn't your answer.

Daniel Amen: Yeah, no, my answer is we should see him.

Tana Amen: You should bring him down here.

Daniel Amen: There are multiple causes of memory loss. There's multiple causes of social isolation. And there's been a brain SPECT imaging pattern for Alzheimer's disease that was actually described in the 1980s. It's bilateral parietal lobe, top back part of your brain, bilateral temporal lobe hypoperfusion, so low blood flow. So I thought, well, we should see if he really has the pattern. And if he does, what are the things we can do for him? We're going to talk about that in this series. If he doesn't, that's actually more exciting because it means there may be even more we can do for him. And when we scanned him, he clearly did not have the Alzheimer's pattern.

Tana Amen: Which was very frustrating and weird. He'd become a recluse, we'd been told he has Alzheimer's disease, he's not taking care of himself, and now I'm told he doesn't have Alzheimer's disease. So yes, there's some relief there, and there's also a lot of frustration. I am a nurse, so I'm a little perturbed that the medical community just completely let me down, let him down, let us down as a family. That's just not okay. It's a little-

Daniel Amen: And he was on a toxic cocktail of medications that I hadn't seen for many years. And I believed, correctly it turned out, that he had a condition called pseudodementia, which is he's depressed and it really appears clinically like he has dementia. Took him off those medications, put him on a different plan, we'll talk about that, and within a couple of months he's significantly better, and he actually starts leading Bible study. So for people that don't know, Tana's dad was a pastor, so this had been his passion for many years. And he was also a seminar leader where he would teach people about the DISC, which is a personality assessment that people use at work to help understand people. What was it? About six months later, he leads a seven-hour seminar-

Tana Amen: At church. At the local church.

Daniel Amen: At the local church. It was-

Tana Amen: It was pretty miraculous. You know, I don't want to just gloss over this because it's easier to just go, "Oh, let's talk about the memory part of it," but clearly there were issues in our family. There were issues in our family. I think that's not an uncommon thing. That's what we do for a living, so a lot of people listening to us are having issues in their family, and along with some of those memory issues are other issues.

He was a minister, and we weren't getting along. I hadn't spoken to him for years, and he hadn't been in my life. He sort of disappeared when I was young, and there was a lot of emotional baggage there. So to have the opportunity to have him get better and have him down here living in my house, which I wasn't thrilled with initially, but that was a massive opportunity for us to heal. I had never thought that would happen. Didn't actually even think I wanted it to. But that was a gift to be able to have that opportunity to take that time. Yes, I thought I was doing it for him. Ultimately, I think that that was a gift that God gave me to be able to heal that relationship. But he got to die with peace. He hadn't had peace in his life probably ever.

Daniel Amen: He died about five years later of leukemia.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: So something completely unrelated.

Tana Amen: His memory intact. But over that five-year period, he healed his relationship with me. He healed his relationship with my mom, weird enough, with my sisters. He had the opportunity to most of all forgive himself, to figure out why he had behaved the way he behaved in the past and made the decisions he had made. And what a difference in the way you live your life at the end of your life, and you're able to let go. I don't think there's a price you can put on that. Versus had he been in a nursing home somewhere gorked out on medication and never knowing, and having the rest of us resentful and angry.

Daniel Amen: Right. So I wrote Memory Rescue not just for people who have Alzheimer's disease or who are worried about it. I wrote it for all of us because I think there are many people who misplace their phone, there are many people who forget people's names, who struggle to find the right words, that many of us, as we age, even when we're younger, we struggle with memory problems. How can you make your memory as sharp as it can be? And if it's going to the dark place, how do you get it back?

Memory Rescue is based on one very simple concept that if you want to keep your memory healthy, if you want to improve it, if you want to get it back from the dark place, you'll have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. And that's why this is a 12-part series. In this one, we'll introduce the concept, and then subsequently we're going to go over each of the 11 risk factors and what to do about them.

But before we get into the risk factors, it's important to understand a little bit about the brain and memory and how it works. Your brain has two very important structures called the hippocampus, which are deep in your temporal lobes underneath your temples and behind your eyes. And the hippocampus is Greek for "seahorse." I think of you have these two seahorse-like-shaped structures in your brain. And that part of the brain, the hippocampus, so interesting, so important, so cool because, yes, it's involved in getting memory into long-term storage. If you damage it, you can't learn new things. But it's also involved with your mood, and it's involved with knowing where you are in space or your aim.

You're actually an amazing marksman. You love shooting, and you're very good at it. Funny story. I come home, and on the refrigerator is a target from Tana where she had perfectly shot out this person's brain and perfectly-

Tana Amen: Not person. No, not person. A target. A silhouette.

Daniel Amen: Perfectly shot out this silhouette's heart.

Tana Amen: What is the matter with you?

Daniel Amen: And I'm like ...

Tana Amen: Yes, it was a message.

Daniel Amen: It was a message. You know how children when they do something really cool, you want to put it on the refrigerator and celebrate. I come home, and there's this target on my refrigerator, and I just think it was a message to behave myself.

Tana Amen: It was. It was a message, yes. You are married to a redhead, as you often say.

Daniel Amen: But the hippocampus is also ... So memory, mood, and movement, if you will. The hippocampus is so special because-

Tana Amen: See, my silhouette had no hippocampus left.

Daniel Amen: The hippocampus is one of the few parts of the brain that actually produce stem cells every day. It actually makes new cells every day, up to 700 of them, which I think of as baby seahorses. So your brain every day is making baby seahorses. And if you put the seahorses in a growth environment, you can actually more of them likely to survive and thrive. If you put them in a toxic environment, you're more likely to kill them off or shrink them so they're not healthy. So the whole point of memory rescue is, how do you make seahorses grow in healthy or how do you hurt them?

Tana Amen: So over these next 12 lessons or sessions that we do on Memory Rescue, we're going to talk about all those different things, but some of them are a little bizarre and not things you think about, which I'm a little perturbed about, such as the impact of poor diet and early life stress on memory, like on children. That's not fair. What? So how I was fed as a baby and life stress, the stressful environment I was put in, which wasn't even my fault, affects my memory later in life? So we have to talk all of these things. I had my team pull up all of these studies on memory since I knew we were doing this.

Daniel Amen: Do you need therapy?

Tana Amen: I do. I've been through therapy, but now apparently I need it again because that's just not fair.

Daniel Amen: Well, that's one of the reasons taking your brain health and memory serious is important. It's not just about you.

Tana Amen: Before you get pregnant.

Daniel Amen: It's about generations of you. So one thought that has always just blown my mind is when you have a baby girl, so when you had Chloe, Chloe actually was born with all of the eggs in her ovaries that she'll ever have. And Chloe's habits will turn on or off certain genes in those ovaries, making illness more or less likely in her babies and in her grandbabies. So what you ate as a child was turning on or off the genes in your ovaries, making Chloe more likely to be healthier, more likely to be sick. So Memory Rescue is serious for you, but it's also a battle cry, which is why we wrote The Brain Warrior's Way and why the podcast is called The Brain Warrior's Way. It's a battle cry to get healthy for you and those you love.

Tana Amen: And this is not fair, but no one ever said life is fair, that is what I always tell my daughter. Fair a place where they sell bad food and they have farm animals. So it's not fair, but I always think to myself, all right, I don't ever want to be a victim. So I always know that there's got to be a solution, some kind of a solution. I want to know what the solution is, so we're going to talk about that, right?

Daniel Amen: We have a solution for you that is so exciting, it's so easy, and it's so actionable. Let me just highlight one of the really simple things you can do. We've been working on behavior change for a long time here, and the simple habit, the tiny habit is ask yourself every day if what I'm doing today, is it good for brain or bad for it? All you have to do is ask yourself that question and answer it with love.

Love is doing the right thing. Feeling deprived is acting like a four-year-old, and that's not love. When you do the right thing, that's when you should be cheering for yourself. Feeling awesome and amazing when you do the wrong thing, that's when you should be kicking yourself in the butt. Getting well is never about depravation. It's always about abundance. We'll have lots of great stories for you.

But let's just start by talking about how important memory is. I think of memory as the treasure chest that holds your most precious moments from our first kiss, which I remember, it was in Long Beach, to the birth of your babies and grandbabies. Memory is essential for your success at work, in relationships. Just forget your anniversary one time and see what happens. Ours is next week.

Tana Amen: I know. Wow.

Daniel Amen: How exciting. We're really excited about that.

Tana Amen: You've never forgotten it.

Daniel Amen: So memory's also essential for staying independent. I love my four children, but honestly, I never want to have to live with them.

Tana Amen: I could live with Chloe.

Daniel Amen: I never want them telling me what to wear, what to eat, or attempting to take my driver's license from me. I know many of you maybe have parents who live with you, and that's amazing. I only say this half in jest. But I never want to be a burden, and I like my independence. I like being the leader of our family with you.

Tana Amen: See, Chloe and I are like two little birds, but I want to be able to hang out with her and have fun. I don't want to be a burden to her.

Daniel Amen: Right. So if you value your independence, pay attention to us. As I said, the strategy we're going to give you, you want to get your memory strong, you want to get it healthy, you want to prevent memory loss or get it back, is you have to prevent the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Of course, not everybody can prevent memory loss. There are many factors, and some of them, just like you pointed out, that are not in your control, like how they fed you as a child or having a traumatic brain injury or being exposed to toxins.

Tana Amen: But that's the whole point of this, is you know better, you do better. So I started doing better not only for myself, but you can then take this information and, like you said, it's about the next generation. So people think I'm a little crazy. I have this rule in our house, no one is allowed to call me and start drama in the mornings when I'm getting my daughter ready for school or whatever. It's an extreme rule because that was my house, that was my life growing up, and now I know the impact of all of this. It's like, know better, do better. Yeah, it's sort of a joke even, "Don't call her before the hours of blah blah with any of your problems," but I'm not kidding about it because I want to pass this on, that sort of calmness in the morning to my daughter so she can pass that on to her kids. There's no reason to have that nonsense going on in the morning.

Daniel Amen: So having brain healthy-

Tana Amen: Boundaries.

Daniel Amen: Habits. Brain healthy habits are really important. One of the most exciting concepts in Memory Rescue that is based on our work here at Amen Clinics for the last 28 years is your brain's history is not your destiny.

Tana Amen: That's pretty amazing.

Daniel Amen: So even though you were fed terrible food when you were growing up, and it was a chronically stressful environment, if you do the right things, you can reverse the damage. How exciting is that? We've proven it in the big NFL study that we've done, which we'll talk about in a couple of podcasts, is your brain's history is not your destiny.

So before we go today, let's actually give an overview of the 11 major risk factors. And we developed a mnemonic called "BRIGHT MINDS." It's a memory book, so you got to have mnemonics in it, which is Greek for "memory aid," and the mnemonic is "BRIGHT MINDS." So if you can remember BRIGHT MINDS, it'll help you remember the 11 major risk factors. So this is really going to preview what's coming up in the next 11 shows.

B is for blood flow. BRIGHT MINDS. B is for blood flow. Low blood flow is the number one brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer's disease.

Tana Amen: So if you're doing anything to restrict blood flow, bad. Bad, bad thing.

Daniel Amen: And the strategies are going to be avoid things that hurt it and do things that help it.

Tana Amen: So we're going to show you what to do to increase it.

Daniel Amen: Right. A simple thing like beets can increase blood flow. R stands for retirement and aging. When you stop learning, your brain starts dying.

I, which we've talked about on this show before many times, is inflammation.

Tana Amen: Well, it's in every one of our books, so that's huge, and that's going to be a massive part of this book.

Daniel Amen: Inflammation comes from the Latin word "to set afire."

Tana Amen: It's "flame."

Daniel Amen: When you have inflammation in your body, it's like you have a low-level fire destroying your organs, so eating an anti-inflammatory diet, taking anti-inflammatory supplements can be really helpful.

G is for genetics. The stuff runs in families, but I always say if you have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia in your family, it's not a death sentence.

Tana Amen: Right. It's a wake-up call.

Daniel Amen: It should be a wake-up call to do the right things.

H is for head trauma. Your brain is soft, about the consistency of soft butter. Your skull is really hard. Your skull has sharp, bony ridges. You have to protect it because head trauma significantly increases the risk of dementia. People who played in the NFL have a 19-fold increase in being diagnosed with dementia before the age of 50.

Tana Amen: Crazy. Wow. Before the age of 50?

Daniel Amen: Before the age of 50. T is for toxins, probably one of the most common causes of dementia. We live in a toxic society. We're recording this right after Hurricane Harvey, and the level of mold exposure for people who go back to their flooded houses is going to be very high.

Tana Amen: And it's not just mold. Think about all the water that sort of ... The streets, the trashcans, all of the things that are going to be washed up. The broken sewer lines, I was watching the news, and one of the nursing homes, it was so sad, the hospitals, it not only damaged and destroyed the food, it broke sewer lines. So all of that is now going to become part of their immediate environment that they're going to have to figure out.

Daniel Amen: So dealing with the toxins in your food, in your personal products, in the air, we're going to talk about that.

M stands for mental health issues. ADD, anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia all increase your risk. So what are some of the mental health principles that you can use to avoid that risk factor or at least treat it?

I is for immunity and infections. They ravage your brain. This is going to be a whole new area of psychiatric medicine, and we'll talk about how to boost your immune system.

N stands for neurohormone deficiencies. Low thyroid, low testosterone, low estrogen, low progesterone in women are significant risk factors for memory loss.

D stands for diabesity, which is diabetes or pre-diabetes, being overweight or obese or both, significantly increases your risk. As your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. Same thing for blood sugar levels. Getting those under control is absolutely essential to keeping your brain healthy.

And S is for sleep.

Tana Amen: Boy, I'm listening to you, and I'm like, I have a lot of these risk factors in my family and myself, and there's a lot of these risk factors. So a lot of times when people say, "You're so disciplined," and I'm like, it's not so much that I'm disciplined. It's that I've got a lot of reason to be motivated.

Daniel Amen: So you're appropriately anxious.

Tana Amen: Right. And now it's just lifestyle. Now it's just the way I live.

Daniel Amen: And what we want you to do in this podcast is be excited, be hopeful. There are actionable things you can do to keep your brain healthy. So stay with us. We're going to have a podcast on each of the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind, and we're going to give you some very simple tools to help. Stay with us. You're listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

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