Personal health

Take care of your brain like you would take care of a muscle

By April 12, 2013 7 Comments


This TEDx video from Daniel Amen gives a great explanation of how to take care of your brain. He has taken over 63,000 brain scans over the last 20 years and has found that the brain scans of people with bad habits are all gnarly and horrible. A gnarly scans mean a physically unhealthy brain which means thinking, judgement, personality, interaction with others and ability to innovate will all suffer. The picture above shows a healthy brain on the left and an unhealthy brain on the right.

Daniel says it is ‘very clear to him’ that people with healthy brains are happier, healthier, wealthier, and wiser, whereas people with unhealthy brains are sadder, sicker, poorer, not as smart and less flexible.

Mostly people think of this as ageing, but what Daniel shows is that the way we treat our brains also has a massive effect. Moreover, people who improve their habits can improve the physical health of their brains even at relatively advanced ages. He shows scans from one man whose brain got significantly healthier over ten years from the age of 53 after he began taking care of it.

So what do you need to do to take care of your brain – nothing too surprising really, except maybe meditate!

  • Sleep a min of 7 hours a night (less than 7 hours blood flow to the brain reduces)
  • Avoid drinking (even two glasses of red wine a day aren’t good….)
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid obesity (body weight correlates negatively with brain weight)
  • Form new social connections
  • Learn new stuff
  • Be grateful
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Meditate

I think the best way to think about the brain is that it is like a muscle. They teach this to my kids at school saying that like a muscle the more you use it the stronger it gets. Saying the same thing, the work of Kurzweil and many others has shown for a long time that using your brain in a positive way (intellectual challenge, social interaction, ball sports) slows the rate of decline in elderly people. But exercise is only one half of taking care of a muscle – you also need to rest it and feed it right.