TEDxOrangeCoast – Daniel Amen – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

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Translator: Linda Anderson
Reviewer: Denise RQ
Good afternoon.
I am so excited to be here.
I actually film all my shows here
at the Orange County
Performing Arts Center.
So, innovation is a brain function.
It is dependent on
the physical health of your brain.
So, did you know obviously, your brain
is involved in everything you do:
how you think, how you feel, how you act,
how you get along with other people.
At the Amen Clinics, we have looked
at over 63,000 brain scans
over the last 20 years,
and it is very clear to me
that your brain is the organ of judgment,
personality, character, and innovation.
And when you brain works right,
you work right.
And when your brain is troubled,
you are much more likely
to have trouble in your life.
So what you see on the screen
are two brain SPECT scans.
SPECT is the study
that we do in our clinic.
It is a very sophisticated
brain imaging study
that looks at blood flow
and activity patterns.
It looks at how your brain works.
And it basically shows us three things:
areas of the brain that work well,
areas of the brain
that are low in activity,
and areas of the brain
that are high in activity.
So good activity, too little, or too much.
And then our job becomes balancing it.
The image on your left is a healthy scan.
It shows full, even, symmetrical activity.
The color doesn’t mean
anything, it’s the shape.
The image on the right
is an alcoholic scan.
Alcohol is directly toxic
to brain function.
I know many of you believe
you have to have
your two glasses of red wine a day
because it’s good for your heart.
It is not good for your brain.
With a healthy brain,
it’s very clear to me
you’re happier, healthier,
wealthier, you’re wiser,
you’re more creative, more innovative.
When your brain is not healthy,
for whatever reason:
you had a brain injury,
you have a terrible diet,
you live in a toxic environment,
you’re sadder, sicker,
poorer, not as smart.
You’re more rigid, and you’re inflexible,
which is the opposite of innovation.
I’ve said this tens of thousands of times,
and it always blows me away.
Your brain is the most complicated
organ in the universe.
There is nothing as complex
as the human brain, nothing.
It is estimated we have
100 billion nerve cells.
And each nerve cell is connected
to other nerve cells,
not in a one-to-one connection,
but up to 10,000 individual
connections between cells.
Which means you have
more connection in your skull
than there are stars in the Universe.
Information in your brain
travels at about 268 miles an hour.
Unless, of course, you’re drunk.
And even though your brain
is only 2% of your body’s weight,
it uses 20 to 30%
of the calories that you consume.
So, of the breakfast you had this morning,
or the lunch you had this afternoon,
almost a third of it goes to feed
2% of your body’s weight.
Your brain is the most expensive
real estate in your body.
On average, you lose
85,000 brain cells a day.
And what we’ve discovered
at the Amen Clinics
is you can accelerate the aging
process with your behavior,
or you can decelerate it.
How exciting is that?
The health of your brain
also decelerates innovation,
or it accelerates it.
So what are the things
that hurt your brain?
Brain injury should be obvious.
I just finished the largest NFL study,
brain imaging study
on retired NFL players.
The NFL is no longer lying
about brain injuries.
They’re taking it much more seriously.
Do not let your kids play tackle football,
or hit soccer balls with their head.
Come on, the brain is very soft,
about the consistency of soft butter.
And your skull is really hard,
and it has many sharp, bony ridges.
You have to protect it.
Drugs and alcohol should be obvious,
but what our country
has no clue yet, but is learning,
is that obesity damages brain function.
There are now ten studies.
We just published a study
in the Nature journal, “Obesity”,
that says as your weight goes up,
the actual physical size and function
of your brain goes down.
Whoa.
That should scare the fat off anyone.
(Laughter)
I read that study, the first one
that came out about three years ago,
I dropped 25 pounds.
I was serious, when it comes
to the brain, size matters.
You do not want a smaller brain.
(Laughter)
Smoking constricts
blood flow to the brain.
Like it prematurely ages your skin,
it prematurely ages the brain.
High blood pressure,
as your blood pressure goes up,
the blood flow to your brain goes down.
So you need to know your blood pressure
on a regular basis,
and if it’s high, take it seriously.
Diabetes, standard American diet,
environmental toxins,
lack of exercise, and something I call
ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts,
the thoughts that come into your mind
automatically and ruin your day.
They are the seeds
of anxiety disorders and depression.
So if this is true, it is,
what are the things you can do
to help your brain?
Positive social connections.
Unbelievable, the people
you spend time with
determine your longevity.
Isn’t that interesting?
If you spend time with people
who have healthy health habits,
you pick those up,
because people are contagious.
If you spend time with people
who do not have healthy habits,
you die early.
Become very serious
about who you spend your time with.
New learning, so TED is perfect for this.
Whenever you learn something new,
your brain makes a new connection.
When you stop learning, your brain
actually starts to disconnect itself.
Diet is absolutely essential.
You are consuming the nutrients
that are helping you,
or the toxins that hurt you.
The SAD diet, the Standard American Diet,
is not only associated with heart disease,
cancer, and diabetes.
It’s associated with depression,
attentional problems,
and Alzheimer’s disease.
Food is medicine, or it is poison.
Sleep, again it’s absolutely essential.
Because you know, in 1900, we got,
on average, nine hours of sleep at night.
In 2011, we get six hours
of sleep at night.
Less than seven hours of sleep, you get
lower overall blood flow to the brain.
Your brain cannot go through
that kind of transition
in such a short period of human history,
without there being
very serious consequences.
And as sleep goes down, weight goes up,
because your cravings get out of control.
So, being physically healthy is important.
But having anxiety is important.
Did you know there are
great studies with longevity,
and the children who were
the “Don’t worry,
be happy” children die early,
because they didn’t take
their health seriously enough.
I hope I give you a little anxiety.
You know, I’m a psychiatrist by training.
I was teaching people to chill out,
and what I came to realize,
is I need to motivate them a little bit
and just increase their fear,
so that the double cheeseburgers
are not calling their name.
Meditation fooled us.
What we thought, you know,
meditate, zone out, brain calms down.
Absolutely not like that at all.
When people meditate,
it activates the front part of their brain
which is the most human,
thoughtful part of their brain.
You want the best antidepressant?
It’s not Prozac, it’s gratitude.
You write down three things
you’re grateful for every day.
Within three weeks you’ll notice
a significant difference
in your level of happiness.
ANT-killing means don’t believe
every stupid thought you have.
You go, “OK, Dr. Amen, you’ve been
a psychiatrist for 30 years.
Single most important thing
people can do?”
Don’t believe every stupid
thought you have.
Have this little question,
in your head, “Is it true?”
So when you feel like your husband
doesn’t love you, is it true?
Because when you question your thoughts,
you live in a more rational world.
Here are examples
of three 60-year-old brains.
One with Alzheimer’s disease.
One that is overweight,
that has sleep apnea,
which is a disaster for brain function.
And a healthy scan.
Which brain do you want?
I know which brain I want.
Here are five ways brain imaging
will change everything you do.
The first thing,
it will give you brain envy.
(Laughter)
So, I started doing scans in 1991.
I was 37 years old,
and I scanned my own brain.
And I looked at it,
compared to a lot of other scans,
and I went, “Yuck,
too many bumps, bumpy places.”
And I’ve actually never drank.
I got drunk when I was 16,
I had a hangover for five days.
I went, “This is not for me.”
Never smoked, never did drugs.
I’m like, “Why does my brain look so bad?”
But at the time, I had
a lot of bad brain habits.
I only slept four or five hours a night
because I was driven.
I was drinking diet soda
like she was my best friend.
And I carried more weight,
was under chronic stress, and it showed.
And so, since I saw my scan,
and developed brain envy,
at 52, I scanned myself again,
and it’s much younger.
My brain looks better.
And you know, you can do that.
That’s the cool thing about the brain.
You’ve probably heard
about brain plasticity.
But if you make good decisions today,
we found this out with our NFL study,
that you can start to improve
your brain within two months.
It’s like, how exciting is that?
And, with a better brain,
everything in your life is better;
from your body to your money,
to your relationships,
to the level of innovation.
The second thing is, since brain imaging,
I would never let my kids
play tackle football.
When does the brain finish developing?
Twenty-five.
Your brain, and in males,
some people think it’s more like 28.
So the idea that you are an adult at 18,
from the neuroscience perspective,
is just flat-out stupid.
And the insurance companies know that.
When do your insurance rates
change and stabilize? Twenty-five.
Why? Because you’re
making better decisions.
And the decisions you make
are a brain function.
So do not let your kids
put their brains at risk.
You’ll take environmental toxins
so much more seriously.
This is one of the firefighters
that we scanned recently.
And you see this overall low activity.
Those holes? He doesn’t have
physical holes in his brain.
What he has is
serious overall low activity.
You’ll take your weight
a whole bunch more seriously.
And you’ll think about the early detection
and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is expected
to triple in the next 25 years
We cannot afford this.
And how you prevent Alzheimer’s disease?
Is you prevent all the illnesses
that are associated with it,
like heart disease, cancer, diabetes,
depression, and high blood pressure.
So, how to create a brain-smart
world to accelerate individuals?
This is my goal.
And we see individuals and families
at the Amen Clinics,
but we’re very interested in schools,
in churches, businesses, and communities.
And, I love this.
Andy came to see me about four months ago.
First time, about ten years ago,
when he was 53, and his brain
just looked awful.
And I got him to buy
into the program of brain health.
And, this is what his brain
looked like ten years later.
Isn’t that cool?
And I want to talk
about getting systems involved.
So, I was working on my new show.
And while I was working
on my show, I went to church.
And my wife said she’d drop Chloe off,
our seven-year-old, at children’s church,
and I would go save us seats.
And, it’s at a very large church nearby,
and it’s not Saddleback.
And as I walked into church,
I passed 500 donuts for sale.
And I was just irritated.
And then I walked by bacon
and sausage cooking on the grill.
And I’m furious.
And right before I go into the sanctuary,
they’re cooking hundreds of hot dogs
for something after church.
And as I sat down in the sanctuary,
the minister started talking
about the ice cream festival
they had the night before.
And, I’m nearly psychotic at this point.
(Laughter)
And when my wife found me,
I was typing on my phone,
which she hates.
And she gave me that look
that only your wife can give you,
that said, “Why the hell are you
on this thing in church?”
(Laughter)
And I showed her what I was writing:
“Go to church, get donuts, sausage,
bacon, hot dogs, ice cream.
They have no idea.
They’re sending people to heaven early!”
(Laughter)
It’s like, not the plan.
(Laughter)
And I have no idea what the minister
said the rest of that service.
I just sat there,
praying that God would use me
to change churches.
Because this isn’t the plan.
No lie, two weeks later,
Rick Warren calls me.
He said, “Dr. Amen,
we’re doing this program
called Decade of Destiny
in the next ten years at Saddleback.
I want to get the congregation
and myself healthy.
Will you help me?”
I’m like, “Oh my God,
God was paying attention.”
(Laughter)
Often in my life I don’t feel
like that, but I’m so excited.
And so we have put together a program
called The Daniel Plan:
God’s Prescription for your Health,
for the 30,000 members at Saddleback.
And we give them
the opportunity to sign up
for the research part of the program.
We now have nearly 15,000 people
in our research study.
Saddleback, as we developed
the Daniel Plan,
is connected
to 400,000 churches around the world.
Next year, after we’ve beta tested
this year, we’re going to export it.
I couldn’t be more excited about this.
And we deliver the content
through small groups.
Why? Because people get well in groups.
They get well as families,
they get well in support groups.
And after three months,
the church has already lost
160,000 pounds.
People report improved energy,
focus, creativity, sleep, mood,
reductions in asthma, stress,
blood pressure, blood sugars,
and many medications.
We have our own Daniel Plan menu,
and I have my challenges.
I am still trying to get them
to kill the donuts at church.
You might pray for me.
(Laughter)
I couldn’t be more excited
to be part of what has the potential
to change the world
from the church up.
But you know, it also needs
to happen from the school up.
The food they serve
your children is a scandal,
and research suggests
that it actually increases
attentional and behavior problems.
There’s three studies now
in the journal The Lancet
that said, “put kids on elimination diet,”
which basically means eliminate
all the crap in their diet.
And within three months, 73% of them
show greater than a 50% reduction
in their symptoms.
This isn’t hard.
We need to change our society, though.
From businesses up, from hospitals up.
I went and visited my aunt
in the hospital,
I said, “I have to get you out of here,
the food is going to kill you.”
(Laughter)
Brain health and innovation
are intimately connected.
Please help me create
a brain healthy world.
Thank you.
(Applause)

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