That was Dr. Amen’s advice to us as he outlined his health plan on the PBS Special “Use Your Brain to Change Your Age ” which recently aired on Public Broadcasting Stations. As a physician and brain imaging expert, Dr. Amen says it is important to know the health of your brain in order to prevent dementia type diseases such as Alzheimer’s. He says researchers believe that Alzheimer’s starts in the brain 30 to 50 years before there is any show of symptoms! Dr. Amen suggests getting a brain scan in clinics such as his in order to discover an early presence of brain deterioration. Early detection will give you time to make the lifestyle healthy changes needed to reverse brain deterioration. When do you think you should order a brain scan? Dr. Amen gives us some warning signs that our brains may be in trouble.
- Having a poor memory worse than what it was 10 years ago. It is not normal for you to have memory problems and problems developing brain thought when you’re in your 40′s, 50′s, 60′s or 70′s. It is a sign of trouble, and not a sign of old age as many people think.
- Depression. We all have sad days. But if the sadness comes and stays for more than a few weeks then you may be in trouble. It is critical to have it evaluated and treated. Depression doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in women and quadruples the risk in men. Depression is also one of the treatable causes of memory loss and Dr. Amen cautions that sometimes it is hard to distinguish between depression and Alzheimer’s and that is where a brain scan may be useful.
- Overweight and obesity is a warning sign because it increases the risk of the depression and dementia. Dr. Amen states that recent studies have shown that as your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down! If you want a healthy brain, it is critical that get your weight under control now!
- Chronic insomnia and sleep apnea. Good sleep is essential for healthy brain function. Less than six hours of sleep at night is associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain. Insomnia puts you at risk for obesity and depression and lack of sleep can impair your judgment. Sleep apnea, where you snore loudly, stop breathing at night and where you may be chronically tired during the day, doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain scans of persons with sleep apnea look very much like Alzheimer’s disease scans.
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