In the U.K. edition of HuffPost, writer Adrianne Webster reported on 11 ways we’re damaging our brains, as told by Dr. Daniel Amen to Steven Bartlett on Steven’s podcast Diary of a CEO podcast.
(Dr. Amen is a well-known psychiatrist and author who specializes in brain health and functional neuroimaging. He is the founder of Amen Clinics, which operates several medical facilities across the United States.)
Below is a highly abridged and paraphrased synopsis of Webster’s excellent article. You can read it here.
Amen uses the pneumonic “BRIGHT MINDS,” (each letter represents a different element of brain health) to make his points.
Dr. Amen says that low blood flow is the number one predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. Factors contributing to low blood flow include caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight.
Continuing to learn is important because it causes your brain to make new connections. When you stop learning or only do the same things over and over, the brain “starts to disconnect itself.”
Many things cause inflammation but one in particular might surprise you. Dr. Amen says there’s a link between gum disease and brain issues. Gum disease puts you at higher risk of heart disease, depression and dementia. The connection between gum disease and the brain is thought to be related to chronic inflammation. When gum disease is present, the body’s immune system remains activated, and inflammatory molecules are released into the bloodstream.
Genes are only part of the puzzle. An unhealthy lifestyle can trigger them. Dr. Amen says, “because genes load the gun, it’s what happens to us and what we choose to do that pulls the trigger.”
Avoid activities like football, soccer, boxing and other activities where you can get a blow on the head.
Some big offenders can be found in personal care products such as phthalates, parabens, PFAS, and triclosan. These endocrine disruptors mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones and have been linked to problems with the brain, as well as development and reproduction.
Negativity increases stress and reduces activity in your cerebellum. While the cerebellum is only about 10% of the brain’s total volume, it contains more than 50% of its neurons.
Immunity and Infections
He says about 60% of the population is low in Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D can result in a smaller brain. Vitamin D, which has anti-inflammatory properties, is good for bone health, immune system support, mood regulation, heart health, muscle strength, cancer prevention and more.
Avoid neurohormone imbalances. Neurohormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin play a crucial role in regulating mood and emotions. Imbalances can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, bipolar disorder and more. Minimize imbalances by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing your stress, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and not smoking.
Dr. Amen describes “diabesity” as a combination of diabetes and obesity. These two conditions have been associated with dementia later in life.
Dr. Amen notes that without sleep, we can’t form or maintain the pathways in our brain that let us learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly during the day, too.