“You are not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better.”
To keep your brain healthy, you have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that can steal your mind. If you take preventative steps to keep your brain healthy now, you may fend off the onset of disorders such as dementia or memory loss in the future. If you or a loved one is already affected by a brain disorder, you don’t have to lose hope for improvement. The BRIGHT MINDS method has shown promise in restoring brain function even after it’s been lost.
Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and researcher, has developed a program called BRIGHT MINDS to help patients fight back against brain disorders and restore healthy brain function.
Keep Your Brain Healthy With the BRIGHT MINDS Program
The BRIGHT MINDS program’s letters stand for the 11 major risk factors that endanger brain health. These factors are:
- Blood Flow
- Retirement & Aging
- Head Trauma
- Mental Health
- Neurohormone Deficiencies
The plan addresses each of these risk factors and takes steps to limit their impact. Even a risk factor as seemingly set in stone as genetics can be lessened to some degree by careful attention to a healthy, brain-boosting lifestyle.
The Importance of Blood Flow
The research uses imaging technologies to identify which areas in patients’ brains have healthy blood flow and poor blood flow. Foremost among the model’s risk factors is blood flow to the brain, which seems to be the number-one brain-imaging predictor of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The research has identified several key lifestyle factors that cause (or are indicators of) low blood flow to the brain. The factors include:
- Caffeine and nicotine consumption
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Lack of exercise
- Erectile dysfunction
These factors are warning signs that you may have low blood flow to your brain. If you or a loved one suffers from any of these conditions, you must take steps to treat them as soon as possible.
Age and Brain Function
It is also imperative to keep your brain active to keep it healthy. Brain function may tend to decrease with age, but declining brain health is not inevitable, no matter how old you are.
Research makes it clear that as we age, our brains essentially start dying. They’re less able to build new connections in their neural pathways, and existing connections begin to break down. The problem gets worse when you stop engaging your mind in activities that require learning and coordination.
When you’re older, you’ve got less leeway to allow your brain to decline. It’s important to engage in brain-building activities throughout your life, especially as you get older.
Tasks that keep your brain healthy include:
- Crossword and/or sudoku puzzles
- Learning a new language
- Playing video games
- Physical activities like walking, tennis or golf
Whole-Body Health and Brain Health
The BRIGHT MINDS model takes into account whole-body conditions that might not affect the brain directly but that can make brain dysfunction more likely. Whole-body conditions that are hard on your brain include:
- Inflammation that causes joint pain or muscle pain throughout your body
- Mental health issues (depression, bipolar disorder, ADD, chronic stress, etc.)
- Hormone deficiencies
- Chronic infections
- Unhealthy sleep habits
If you want to boost long-term brain health, confront any of these brain-sabotaging conditions head-on and do whatever you have to do to treat them. As you make your entire body healthy, your brain health will follow along.
Exercise, Nutrition and Brain Health
Healthy eating is key to keeping your brain healthy throughout your lifetime. The research makes a strong case for the importance of what you put into your body (or don’t put into your body) when it comes to long-term brain health.
Watch out for chronic conditions that are a sign of poor nutrition. These conditions are as bad for your brain as they are for the rest of your body. They include:
- Obesity or overweight
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Keeping toxins out of your body is important, too, including obviously harmful toxins such as lead and pesticides, but also often-tolerated toxins such as alcohol.
Exercise is also crucial, but contact sports such as football, hockey, or other kinds of physical activity that can cause head trauma are to be avoided. Your brain is extremely soft and vulnerable, and it’s encased inside a hard skull; that design protects your brain, but it can also lead to damage to brain tissue if you get hit in the head. Any activity that could cause a concussion or even a minor head injury is the enemy of good brain health.
Making Your Brain Better
You can take control of your brain health. You can improve your brain function even after it’s been compromised, and if you follow the principles of the plan from an early age, you may be able to prevent brain disorders from happening in the first place.
For information on upcoming and current research projects, including those that help improve mental health, visit our research projects here. For updates on the United Brain Association’s news, events, and blog publications, sign up for our email list here.