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Improve Brain Health And Life

Much attention is paid to keeping our hearts, lungs and other body parts healthy, but Americans really don't think about how to keep our brains healthy.

Clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen visits The Early Show to explain why most of us don't realize when we have a problem, and what we can do to actually improve our brain function.

The author of "Making A Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program For Achieving And Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance," offers six things you can do to relieve stressors on the brain.

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
Amen notes that since the invention of the light bulb, we've become sleep-deprived. "As a species we have not evolved to need less sleep," he says. "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.

Regular Exercise
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.

Avoid Substances That 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.

Take 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.

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."

Click here to read an excerpt from his book.