Friday, July 9, 2010

Making a Good Brain Great ((review))

Making a Good Brain Great, by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D. was, quiet frankly, a book which was thrust upon me by my boy. At first, I thought perhaps he was becoming a bit neurotic- for the book reads as a bit of a self-help, and the back and front covers splash a claim that within fifteen days you too can have a better brain.

"Trust me," said the boy, so I did.

It helps that Dr. Amen is a clinical nueroscientist, psychologist, and brain-imaging expert, who leads a world-renowned clinic for this sort of thing. With all of those credentials and one easy message, the book became an engrossing and eye-opening read. What was that main principle? Your brain is involved in everything you do- so treat it right.

Amen has a quite a few main ideas, which he illustrates very clearly:
Recognize Stress Can Make You Sick
Amen says that stress hormones kill brain cells in the memory center and cause serious trouble for the body. Just realizing that and deciding to work on reducing stress is a good step.

Get Enough Sleep

"As a species we have not evolved to need less sleep," says Amen. "Six hours isn't enough. We really need nine hours of sleep and almost no one gets that much." Sleep deprivation is very harmful to the brain.

Exercise Regularly
Amen says that regular exercise boosts hormones that keep your brain young. And, there are studies that show that exercise increases the circulation to the brain that promotes cell health.

In his book, Amen calls table tennis the best brain sport. It improves hand-eye coordination. It's aerobic, uses both upper and lower body and causes you to use many different areas of the brain to function.
Amen also speaks out against sports which may cause brain injury. Another main principle of his is this: Your brain is very soft, housed in a very hard skull—injuries can change your life. So, sports like football, hockey, and soccer, and even snowboarding and skiing (where your head is most likely to slam into another object) are even more dangerous than one might think. “As a society,” says Amen, “we have no respect for physical fragility of the brain.” So, the next time you are about to play a contact-sport you might want to think twice.

Avoid Substances Which Stress The Brain

The chief offenders in this category are caffeine and nicotine, drugs and alcohol. These substances actually decrease the blood flow in the brain, which is damaging and can cause premature aging.
Dr. Amen includes side-by-side brain scans in most of his chapters, but none are as chilling as those in his chapter in which he speaks out against substance abuse. Show your child these images, and they will never laid a finger on drugs of any sort.

Take Supplements

In Chapter Five of Making a Good Brain Great, Dr. Amen provides a quiz which will give a complete picture of your brain health (as complete as you can get out of a generalized quiz, that is). After taking the quiz you will find what areas of the brain might be problems. One quick fix to many of these issue is supplements.

There are lots of things you could take, but Amen wants to keep this simple. He says that there is research that shows that Omega 3 (fish oil) and a good multiple vitamin promote brain health. Brain health, he says, can also be regulated by a healthier diet, rich in proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Develop Internal ANT-Eater

Dr. Amen calls ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) stressors for the brain. These are the daily, automatic negative thoughts that go through your head in the day. "Whenever you feel sad, mad or nervous, you need to write out what you are thinking. Look at them," he says. "Are they reasonable or are they torturing you unnecessarily? And then you talk back to them. You don't have to believe every thought you have. Thoughts can lie. Correcting them will go a long way to treating depression and anxiety."

If you feel a little frazzled at the end of the day, misplace your keys, have a short attention span during discussions, or seem to get stuck in negative thoughts or behaviors-- Making a Good Brain Great is an interesting book, which you will find pivotal in your search for a cure.

In fact, you will find yourself spouting off to friends what supplements they should be taking, and what risky factors they might want to stay away from to keep their brains young and fit.

If you think I sound a bit neurotic, what my regimented exercise and supplement popping- then I suggest you read a copy of Making a Good Brain Great anyway, just so I can prove you wrong :)

(photo compliments of The Mind Perspective)

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