Last week, America’s Brain Health Index ranked states by brain health. The top three brain-healthiest places in the US? Maryland, DC and Washington state. I helped judge the Index’s Beautiful Minds contest last year (full disclosure: I’m chair of a scientific advisory board of a sponsoring company that sells algae-derived DHA in pill form), and the 11 winners’ stories are inspirational, so check them out. This all reminded me of another part of the September 14 Dr. Oz show (the part that did not concern apple juice). In fact, that part of the show focused on, among other things, how you can protect your brain.
Two things especially hinder your brain from maintaining function as it ages: high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Dr. Oz pointed out that one sign of trouble is deteriorating penmanship. Computer use is making our penmanship worse anyway, and docs are famous for their terrible handwriting, so guess I’m in trouble. That’s why I follow my own advice and take the below three steps to protect my brain:
1. Know your blood pressure, and do whatever it takes (exercise, meditation, weight loss) to keep it near the ideal of 115/75.
2. Know your blood sugar, and do whatever it takes to keep it under 100.
3. Get enough DHA. Get your DHA either by eating two or three 4-ounce servings of salmon per week or by taking a supplement. When he was showing superfoods on the show, Dr. Oz discussed salmon first. He mentioned that DHA omega-3 is its most beneficial ingredient. Dr. Oz also explained that omega-3s are essential fatty acids, which means you do not naturally produce them. Therefore, you have to get omega-3s through your diet. It’s even essential for salmon to eat algae to get their fill of DHA.
So what’s so special about DHA? Well, DHA is the omega-3 that was shown in the May 2010 MIDAS study to decrease brain aging by more than three years (looks like six years younger to me from the data). Just take 900 mg a day (from fish, DHA-rich foods or supplements). An added bonus: This also decreases your risk of macular degeneration.
Dr. Oz has previously stated that that DHA plays an important role in developing the IQ of babies and possibly in decreasing postpartum depression risk for moms (that’s why it’s included in most prenatal vitamins). Plus, DHA readily converts itself into the heart-protective EPA if needed. So DHA omega-3 is special because it is the one nutrient that has been shown in those gold standard randomized double-blind studies to make your heart, brain and eyes all stay younger longer.
We’ll talk about why I think all women between 12 and 50 should be taking a prenatal vitamin in my next blog, and why both men and women over 50 should be taking DHA with something (you’ll have to read next week to find out what).
And now to my favorite thing to blog about: the top medical story of the week! It’s news YOU can use – or, as I say, the latest Roizen rule for a younger you.
The week's top article: Randomized trials (14 of them so far) have shown that probiotics decrease upper respiratory infections by 42%. To get the benefits, just head to a drugstore or a health food store and pick up a jar of probiotics. You’ll get two billion spore cultures in pill form a day, and you’ll reduce your risk of these annoying coughs and nasal drips.