What Is The Number One Brain Imaging Predictor for Alzheimer’s Disease?

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

In the second installment of a 12-part series on Memory Rescue, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen talk about the first risk factor for memory loss from the BRIGHT MINDS mnemonic: Blood Flow. Learn how crucial proper blood flow is to your memory, brain, and overall health, as well as what you can do if your mind is headed to the dark place.


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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 Amenclinics.com.

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 Brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Daniel Amen: Welcome back to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We're in lesson two of memory rescue. And remember, the way you rescue your memory or make it stronger is we attack the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. And we developed the pneumonic BRIGHT MINDS to help us remember all 11. And it starts with B is for blood flow.

Tana Amen: So, why is it that you keep saying this is your favorite one?

Daniel Amen: Well, 'cause it's involved in erections. It's involved in-

Tana Amen: Really? Well, you just said that live. Like, you just said that on the podcast, really?

Daniel Amen: Seriously.

Tana Amen: It's involved in so much more than just sex. It could've been menstruation. It could've been cardio, like exercise. But no, you went straight for erections.

Daniel Amen: So, B is for blood flow. What do guys think about with blood flow? You know, I used to say, whatever's good for your heart, is good for your brain.

Tana Amen: Unbelievable.

Daniel Amen: 'Cause it's all about blood flow.

Tana Amen: Yes, I know.

Daniel Amen: And whatever's bad for your heart is bad for your brain. And, then a number of years ago, about 10 years ago, even longer, when I wrote, The Brain In Love, I went, "Oh, I missed something." Whatever's good for your heart is good for your brain, it's good for your genitals. And whatever's bad for your heart is bad for your brain, is bad for your genitals. And then I read this study from Harvard. 40% of 40-year-olds have erectile dysfunction.

Tana Amen: Wow.

Daniel Amen: And 70% of 70-year-olds have erectile dysfunction, and that horrified me.

Tana Amen: So yeah, a lot of-

Daniel Amen: And at 63, probably 63% of 63-year-olds have erectile ... And, I am not going to have any of this. This is not going to be dependent on the little blue pill to have a good time ...

Tana Amen: Okay, let's ... It's enough, enough, enough. Anyways ...

Daniel Amen: ... with my wife. But, this is so important, because if 40% of 40-year-olds have erectile dysfunction, what that means is 40% of 40-year-olds have brain dysfunction.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: And 70% of 70-year-olds have brain dysfunction.

Tana Amen: But ...

Daniel Amen: And there's something you can do about this.

Tana Amen: Right, but that's the thing. Hold on. People think it's normal, okay. So, there's a lot of people who go, "Yeah, but that's normal. As I get older, you're not supposed to have sex as much. As I get older, I'm supposed to forget where I leave my keys," right? That's the big belief. It's actually the big lie.

Daniel Amen: It's the big lie.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: But it is normal, but it's not healthy.

Tana Amen: But, normal sucks. Normal sucks. Let's just be honest, okay?

Daniel Amen: 50% of people 85 and older will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. So, that means if you're blessed to live to 85 or beyond, you have a one in two chance of having lost your mind.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: I'm not okay with that.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: And you shouldn't be okay with it either. So how does somebody know if they have blood flow issues besides erectile dysfunction?

Tana Amen: Besides they're not having sex? Okay.

Daniel Amen: Or they're dependent on the little blue pill. So, they have a history of smoking. They have a history of cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease, 'cause cardiovascular, it's blood flow, right? Heart attacks, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, they're either prehypertensive or hypertensive.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: So, having high blood pressure lowers blood flow to the brain. If they don't exercise or they don't exercise much, they're more likely to have decreased blood flow to the brain. So, why is blood, you're a nurse, why is blood so important to every organ in the body, especially one that's so metabolically active like the brain?

Tana Amen: Well, lots of reasons. It takes nutrients. It helps detox. I mean, there's a lot of reasons.

Daniel Amen: Okay, so it brings nutrition ...

Tana Amen: Oxygen.

Daniel Amen: ... brings oxygen, brings sugar, brings vitamins-

Tana Amen: And it takes out bad stuff.

Daniel Amen: And, just as important, people don't understand this, just as important, blood takes away the toxic byproducts that build up in your cells.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: So, if you limit blood flow, you are increasing the toxic material in your body, particularly in your brain. And why your brain is so important, so the brain is only 2% of the body's weight, but it uses 20% of the blood flow, 20% of the oxygen in your body. So, how do you know if you likely have vascular problems, blood flow problems, in your brain? You have some of the risk factors.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: Like, you smoked, or you drank a lot of caffeine, 'cause caffeine decreases blood flow to the brain. And, so we want people to love their blood flow. And how you improve this risk factor is you decrease anything that hurts it, and you do things that help it. So, for example, if you're not exercising, you change that. And you put a regular exercise in your life. If you have hypertension, you treat it. You get serious. It doesn't necessarily mean medicine. Weight loss can help it. Exercise can help it.

Tana Amen: Right. There's a lot of natural things you can do. Eating the right foods, moving your body more, lots of things you can do.

Daniel Amen: Magnesium can help it.

Tana Amen: If you really, really have to, there are some people who just have to take blood pressure medication. It kind of sucks. When I was having-

Daniel Amen: Right, but you have to do it.

Tana Amen: Right. When I was having heart rate issues with the thyroid, I gotta tell you, I like fell asleep at a stop sign taking that stuff 'cause it just makes you wacky, wonky. It's terrible.

Daniel Amen: More wacky than normal?

Tana Amen: Much more wacky, wonky than normal. Like, no less wonky than normal, because I was so tired all the time. It was terrible. So, I would rather do the natural things.

Daniel Amen: So natural things if you can, but if you can't, having high blood pressure puts you at risk for stroke, and having a stroke increases your risk of dementia 10 times.

Tana Amen: Right. So you don't want that.

Daniel Amen: So, it's really critical.

Tana Amen: And, why do you keep saying, "Take up racket sports, you need to exercise more?" Like it bugs me, 'cause I do karate. And I love karate. I don't let people hit me in the head. I'm gonna be clear. I love it, complex moves, both sides of the body.

Daniel Amen: So, I'm a huge fan of martial arts if there's no head injuries involved.

Tana Amen: Right. Like, there's nothing that feels better than hitting things.

Daniel Amen: There's a study of 88,000 people showing who had the best cognitive function with age, and it was not football players. They were on the bottom of the list.

Tana Amen: Okay. Fair enough.

Daniel Amen: It was not soccer players. They were on the bottom of the list. It was actually not even runners. Second were swimmers, not that many head injuries in swimming. The first with cognitive function the best was people who played racket sports.

Tana Amen: Okay, but-

Daniel Amen: Let me finish. Let me answer the question. The reason I believe is when you play a racket sport, it's a coordination exercise at high speed. And I play table tennis. I play about three times a week, and I just played last night. It's so good, 'cause I beat my coach, which does not happen often. And you have to think about the spin on the ball while you get your feet and hands going in the right direction. And it's a cerebellar exercise. So, for those people who don't know, the cerebellum's in the back bottom part of your brain. It's only 10% of the brain's volume but uses 50% of the brain's neurons. And coordination exercises, including martial arts, but the one in the study was racket sports, the coordination exercises activate the cerebellum. And when you activate the cerebellum, you turn on the frontal lobes, which help you with things like forethought, judgment, impulse control. So, it's really helpful.

Tana Amen: Okay, so I would never take anything away from that, 'cause everything you said makes total sense. But, I did my thesis for my black belt on, obviously on the benefits of martial arts. There were 126 studies, 126 studies showing the benefits of martial arts under certain conditions for things like autism, ADD, not only problems with kids who were getting bad grades because of focus, but also behavioral disorders. 126 studies. Now, what it was dependent upon was the actual dojo where they study. 'Cause if it was just a mixed martial arts place where they were just teaching them how to fight and get their heads bashed in, that obviously was bad. But if they were focused on tradition, things like katas, the reason why it's really good for kids with autism and ADD is because that takes repetition, complex moves, both sides of the body, so the cerebellum was involved, and so it's really good for you. So yes, [crosstalk 00:10:56]

Daniel Amen: Yeah, and I'm a huge fan. I recommend it for a lot of my patients.

Tana Amen: And, nothing feels better than hitting something.

Daniel Amen: Just don't get hit back.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: Because that's bad for your brain.

Tana Amen: It feels really-

Daniel Amen: All right, so let's get you 10 tips to increase blood flow to your brain. One of the risk factors we didn't talk about was dehydration. When you don't ... 'Cause you know, blood is mostly water, and so if you're dehydrated that will hurt you as well. So, tip number one, focus on drinking more water. So, eight glasses, about eight ounces a day is a good target for most people to hit. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both constrict blood flow to the brain. Now, you know, full disclosure, I make you a cappuccino every morning.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: But, it's a quarter caff.

Tana Amen: Quarter caff.

Daniel Amen: It's a quarter of caffeine.

Tana Amen: And, no sugar.

Daniel Amen: So, I take half caff coffee, mix it with an equal amount of unsweetened almond milk, a little chocolate and pumpkin flavored Stevia, pumpkin spice, put it in a blender, froths like crazy. It's amazing.

Tana Amen: It's on my website, Tanaamen.com. Or, it's in the Brain Warrior's Way cookbook.

Daniel Amen: It's awesome.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Daniel Amen: And, so little bit of caffeine a day, not a big deal. More than 150 mg, so a cup and a half a day, it can be a problem. Nicotine, you need to just stop it. It prematurely ages every organ in your body.

Exercise, particularly martial arts if you don't have a head injury or racket sports. Have a small piece of sugar free dark chocolate. And at brainMD Health, we actually make Brain in Love and Brain on Joy, which are just amazing dark chocolate. And the reason we make that, it's a symbol that getting well is about abundance. It's never about deprivation.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: And it tastes awesome. Ginkgo biloba and Vinpocetine are two supplements that we have seen increase blood flow to the brain.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: We're huge fans of those supplements. And, maybe you can talk about pepper.

Tana Amen: Yes, so cayenne pepper not only is good for your metabolism, it's also good for detoxing and blood flow. One thing that I really like to do, the way that I add this besides to food, some people don't really love cayenne pepper on everything, but I really do like it either in my tea, or sometimes what we do, actually almost every morning, [Chloe 00:13:28] and I will have our warm lemon water with ginger. We just shave a little bit of fresh ginger in it, and we add cayenne pepper to it. It actually gives it that little spicy taste. I really like it actually. Or, I'll put it in my tea at night. So, cayenne pepper's really great.

Daniel Amen: And, other foods include beets.

Tana Amen: We've got a recipe for Beet Street Tacos. It's really yummy.

Daniel Amen: So, beets have a low glycemic index, which means even though they have sugar in them, they don't raise your blood sugar.

Tana Amen: They're very low glycemic load.

Daniel Amen: They're very high in fiber.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: And increase blood flow. So, I always know when you feed me beets, you're ...

Tana Amen: See, it always boils down to sex. What is that? So, I actually put beets, I'll put like a half of a fresh beet in my green juice. I'll do a little bit of beet juice in my green juice.

Daniel Amen: In addition, green, leafy vegetables have nutrients in it that help raise blood flow.

Tana Amen: Yep.

Daniel Amen: You're gonna find green, leafy vegetables help with virtually all of the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. Pumpkin seeds increase magnesium, but they also increase dopamine, which helps boost blood flow to the prefrontal cortex.

Tana Amen: Right. So, if you're like me and you have that little bit of brain fog that you need to like-

Daniel Amen: Some pumpkin seeds can be really helpful.

Tana Amen: Yeah. Exercise, pumpkin seeds, green tea.

Daniel Amen: And green tea is the last thing to think about. So, avoid anything that hurts blood flow to your brain. So a lot of times, people have heard me talk about brain envy. You know, Freud was wrong. Penis envy is not, since we're in to sex today, penis envy is not the cause of most of your neuroses. We want people to develop brain envy, to fall in love with their brain. Likely, I want you to have blood flow envy.

Tana Amen: I'm beginning to think Freud was right.

Daniel Amen: We want you to have blood flow envy, and the strategy to get your memory as sharp as it can be or to get it back if it's headed to the dark place. Avoid anything that hurts blood flow. Do things that help it, hydration, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, racket sports, martial arts, dancing would be another coordination exercise, dark chocolate, ginkgo or Vinpocetine. Foods, like cayenne pepper, beets, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds and decaffeinated green tea.

You're listening to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. When we come back, we're gonna talk about retirement and aging, not good for your brain.

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