This is a book of good news. It offers people powerful ways to protect their brains from aging-related decline. As a clinician and researcher who has long been roused by the wonders of the brain and behavior, I’m increasingly impressed by how much we know about ways to control brain aging—and how little we’ve taken advantage of that knowledge. Even though our brains are bound to deteriorate somewhat as we get older, we can do a lot to protect them. Contrary to the old way of thinking, the lifestyle decisions we make day by day can profoundly influence how long our brains will work at their peak potential. That is the reason for this book.
And now let me give you a preview of what you’ll learn in this book—Ten Ways to Save Your Brain:
1. Do everything you can to assure that adequate blood gets delivered to every cell in your brain. This means following the suggestions in Chapters 6, 8, 10, 11, and 17.
2. Control stress and depression, which involves using the methods of stress assessment and stress relief outlined in Chapter 5. It also means dealing with job stress as discussed in Chapter 6, and taking full advantage of the remarkable stress-busting effects of exercise as shown in Chapter 17.
3. Return to a more natural diet, as outlined in Chapter 11. Follow the Brain-Saving Diet, and you may gradually become aware of the change in your energy and alertness—not to mention sheer gustatory delight. Take advantage of the selective use of supplementary vitamins and minerals as outlined in Chapters 11 and 12. Switch from coffee to tea. Dine, as often as you can, in good company.
4. Stay physically active. Build the life of the body, for which we are so beautifully adapted, back into the habits and pleasures of daily existence, as explained in Chapter 17.
5. Get a good job, one that feeds the spirit as well as the mind, for all the reasons explained in Chapter 6—and retire only when retirement beckons with positive attractions.
6. Avoid neurotoxicants. This includes not only taking the prudent approach to aluminum outlined in Chapter 9 but also avoiding on-the-job exposures described in Chapter 6.
7. Avoid head trauma like the bubonic plague, using the methods outlined in Chapter 16.
8. Pursue forever the pleasures of the learning-nourished mind, not with dull “mental exercise,” but with the naturally stimulating methods described in Chapter 18.
9. Stay alert to evolving news about the links between the mind, the brain, and your health. Take advantage of the safe and effective bets among hormone replacement therapies (as described in Chapter 7), botanicals (Chapter 13), smart drugs (Chapter 14), and anti-inflammatories (Chapter 15).
10. Finally, form a partnership with your doctor to save your brain. For most of us, the most reliable way to guarantee a life-saving, brain-saving, long-term change in health behaviors is to work with a trusted physician. Get a complete physical every year. Keep track of the blood levels that help you prolong that active life of your mind—cholesterol, B12, folate, thyroid functions, homocysteine, and iron—as well as the other simple laboratory tests I’ve recommended in this book. Then sit down with your doctor and decide on the lifestyle changes that are necessary to optimize the health of your brain.