Renowned Psychiatrist Daniel Amen has blown the lid of cognitive health with a range of shocking statements around common behaviours many of us dabble in that could be skyrocketing our risk for brain diseases. Are you guilty of any of them?
In the quest for a healthy body, we often forget that our brain, the command centre of our entire being, deserves just as much attention as the rest of us! Enter Dr Amen, a renowned psychiatrist and neuroscientist, armed with insights that shed light on the habits that could be silently sabotaging our cognitive wellbeing. Brace yourselves for the truth bombs he’s dropped on podcast Diary of a CEO – you might be surprised at some of his claims, from the dangers of caffeine to the effect of loneliness.
Low Blood Flow - The Silent Saboteur
Dr. Daniel Amen sounds the alarm on low blood flow, a major contributor to brain diseases. It's not just about genetics; your daily habits play a crucial role. Excessive alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and even your beloved caffeine fix may be culprits. Dr. Amen raises concerns about caffeine's potential to reduce blood flow and increase stress.
“More than a little bit of caffeine is not fine, it increases cortisol, puts fat around your belly and shrinks your hippocampus,” Dr Amen said.
So, while that morning – plus afternoon and evening – cup of coffee might provide a temporary boost, it could have long-term consequences for your brain.
The Anti-Aging Secret: Learn Something New
As we age, our brains thrive on novelty and challenge. Dr. Amen highlights the importance of continuously learning new things. It's like a workout for your brain, keeping it agile and resilient. So, consider picking up that musical instrument you've always wanted to learn, taking a dance class, or even mastering a new language. Your brain will thank you for the mental gymnastics.
Loneliness: The Silent Epidemic
“Loneliness is terrible for your brain,” Dr Amen told Steven on Diary of a CEO.
Loneliness isn't just a matter of the heart; it can have profound effects on your brain. Dr. Amen emphasises the role of social connections in maintaining cognitive health. Loneliness and social isolation have been linked to cognitive decline and even a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease. So, make an effort to nurture your social bonds—they're more valuable than you might realise.
Red Meat and the Iron Conundrum
“If your iron and ferritin levels (stored iron) are high, it can age the brain,” Dr Amen said.
Here's a dietary twist you might not expect. You probably knew that too much red meat is dangerous, but you might not know the excess iron could also raise your risk for brain disease. While iron is essential for many bodily functions, too much of it can be problematic for your brain. High iron levels have been associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. It might be time to reconsider that daily steak.
Beware of the Western Diet
The Western diet – or really any diet comprised of ultra-processed foods – is no friend to your brain. Dr. Amen sounds the alarm on this dietary pattern, which is laden with sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Such foods have been linked to inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, paving the way for cognitive decline. It's a stark reminder to opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods that nourish your brain. Excess sugar consumption is believed to raise inflammation, along with increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which researchers have found to be a risk factor for dementia. Some studies show that high amounts of fructose can result in insulin resistance in the brain, which research shows may further contribute to the cognitive degeneration that affects Alzheimer’s patients. High fructose intake may also result in impaired memory and learning function, with sugary drinks found to be particularly culpable and may have more damaging effects on the brain as opposed to other sources of added sugars. One study shows a loss of brain tissue as a result of metabolic syndrome, a condition which is defined by the presence of a number of factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol, and we know excess sugar consumption has a direct link to this condition.
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