A Basic Brain Protection Plan: How to Keep Your Brain Healthy and Happy As You Age,
© 2006-2017 by John M. Smart

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Whether you are young or old, you want to protect your amazing brain as it ages. Every year brain science and medicine are revealing new strategies, and I've been researching them for over a decade. The following are the eleven top brain protection steps I recommend and practice to date, in dietary, physician-monitored, and non-dietary categories. When you do them all together, you will see memory, focus, and endurance benefits are truly amazing, and life changing if you've ever suffered any memory issues before. Try them for yourself and see. Here they are first in brief, followed after by more details on each. Click each bold link below to go to its Details section.

Dietary Steps

1. Pescetarian-Paleolithic, or Vegetarian High Good Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carb Diet. See More Details below.
2. Curcumin (six capsules/day). Solgar full spectrum (NovaSOL) curcumin, a formulation called micellar curcumin that is about 100X more bioavailable and effective than standard curcumin. Recommended dose is 6 capsules a day (3 in the morning, 3 in the evening. If you buy the 90 capsule version at Amazon or Walmart, this supplement will cost you between $2.50 and $3/day. If you care about brain health, PLEASE start taking micellar curcumin now instead of standard curcumin (see my article if you'd like details)
3. Fish Oil (EPA+DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids) (1200-3600 mg, or 7-10 capsules/day). Good source: Regular strength fish oil capsules. Costco's [2] are particularly affordable. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan you can use algal DHA instead.
4. Multivitamin Mix with Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Folate, and a range of other important vitamins and minerals. The one I currently use is Life Extension Mix Tablets (4-6/day)[3].
Tip: Get a big plastic organizer box on Amazon ($6-10), put your pills in there (each bottle in a separate bin), and you'll find it fast and easy to take your daily supplements. You can get a travel-sized organizer box as well.

Physician-Monitored Steps
Both of these steps have side effects and need physician guidance. But consider them carefully if you have memory issues, or if you are “Apo E4” gene positive (ask your doc for the genetic test for this if you any Alzheimer's in your family history).
5. Ibuprofen or Natural Substitutes (200-400 mg, or 1-2 capsules/day). Ibuprofens and natural herbal substitutes, like Boswellin are both available over the counter (OTC). Be careful taking these long term, as they can have nasty side effects, including liver failure and GI bleeding. They may be best just for short periods, to quell excessive inflammation. Tell your doctor if you are trying or taking them, so you can monitor side effects.
6. Statin or Natural Substitutes (lovastatin or atorvastatin, 20-40 mg or 1-2 tablets/day). Statins are prescription, and I don't recommend them unless your cholesterol and lipid numbers are crazy (see your doctor). Natural substitutes, like beta-sitosterol, are available over the counter. Your doctor should also know about these.

Non-Dietary Steps
7. Seek Good Stress, Avoid Bad Stress. See More Details below.
8. Intermittent Fasting. See More Details below.
9. Sleep. Get your eight to nine hours a day. Take afternoon naps if you need them, particularly as you age.
10. Exercise. Get sustained aerobic exercise however you can, do it in moderation every day, and keep it up for life.
11. Learning. Get an enriched mental environment however you can, in moderation every day, and keep it up for life.

More Details

This is not medical advice. Please take this to your physician and work with them when starting any new drug or supplement regimen like those described below.

Dietary Steps

1. Pescetarian-Paleolithic or Vegetarian High Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carb Diet. Minimize saturated fats (eliminate almost all dairy and meat) and unsaturated trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods). Eat lots of good plant-based fats (avocados, olives, nut butters). These are amazingly healthful foods, and they help your body burn fat/make ketones (see Intermittent Fasting section for more). Moderate your protein intake, and greatly minimize simple carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.). Eat bean chips instead of tortilla chips. Eat low carb bread. Minimize big sweet fruits. Go for small dark berries instead. A great mnemonic for super foods you want as the majority of your diet is Dr. Joel Fuhrman's GBOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds). Learn it and live it!

A great starter book for eating habits that will protect your brain the best is The Rosedale Diet, Rosedale, 2005. After that try The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Phinney & Volek, 2011, for more on why this particular diet is so good for the average body and brain. Atkins and even better, the Paleo diets are both big positive steps away from the SAD (Standard American Diet) but both have too much protein and not enough good veggies in them, and Atkins has too much bad fat. I believe science will justify the hypothesis that there is one best general-purpose diet for hominids, even though everyone's diet should be further personalized for their unique genetic makeup and cultural history and personal tastes, of course. I predict that over the next ten years evidence will continue to mount that a high fat (good fats only, of course), moderate protein, low carb mostly vegan diet is the best general diet for longevity and health. But for now, controversy reigns and passions run high.

A great Alzheimer’s prevention diet with meat is “Pescetarian”, meaning mostly vegetarian, but with fish as the only animal protein, and only in low amounts (once or twice a week). Especially good fish are cold water ones high in DHA/Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, halibut, mackerel, and sardines. Add lots of vegetables, including dark ones like broccoli, kale, and spinach, and lots of fruits, including dark ones like blueberries and red grapes. To minimize inflammation, keep your Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio at or below 2:1. A good book on foods that do this is The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet, Tribole, 2007. For example, for butter substitutes, use only spreads made almost entirely with canola (Canola Harvest), extra virgin olive oil (Smart Balance with Extra Virgin Olive Oil) or perhaps best, blended with coconut oil (Melt).

Minimize dairy including milk, cheese, and eggs (egg whites are fine). As much as possible free the cows, chickens, geese, deer, duck, pigs, dogs, sheep, and cousins you may currently be dining on or otherwise exploiting due to convenience, taste, and historical habit. If you can go fully vegetarian do so, but if you find you still need/crave animal protein, or want a good hedge in case you are missing something, take your meat in the form of small amounts of sustainably caught or farmed cold water fish. Far better for you and for the environment. Large amounts of meat, any meat, is bad for you. Read a great book on nutrition and health, like The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, 2005 [10], and you’ll have the information you need to stay on track. If you want help with your food choices and a plan for making the move, try Being Vegetarian for Dummies, by Suzanne Havala, 2001 [11].

Avoid the usual suspects like smoking and alcohol (except red wine in small amounts). If you are already a non-read-meat eater that prefers soy milk, cheese, tofutti etc. over dairy you should find the switch away from chicken and turkey to fish isn’t too hard to make. You can find albacore tuna almost everywhere, and wild salmon is gaining in popularity. A bit harder is cutting down the total animal protein we eat. We need a whole lot less of it than exists in the Standard American Diet.

2. Micellar Curcumin. Curcumin is a lipophilic yellow dye, and the active ingredient in turmeric, Indian yellow curry spice. Asian Indians have only 25% of the age-adjusted Alzheimer’s and dementia rates of other countries. Greg Cole and Sally Frautschy at UCLA thought that curcumin might be one of the reasons for this epidemiological fact, and they've used it to reverse Alzheimer's in mice models, and they developed and patented a particularly bioavailable form of it called micellized curcumin that we all should be taking now. One of curcumin's most impressive abilities is that it crosses from the bloodstream into the brain, binds to Alzheimer’s-causing amyloid plaques, helps your immune system clear them out, protects your brain's mitochodria from aging, and does a variety of other neuroprotective functions.

See Curcumin: A Powerful Brain Protection Supplement, John Smart, 2005-2017 [4] for details. It seems clear to me that this supplement will turn out to be even more effective than DHA/Omega-3 fatty acids at general cognitive protection and Alzheimer’s protection.

Before you start curcumin, consider taking a memory test like Cognicheck [6] ($20) to get a sense of your mental baseline. Take the test again at least three months later, and see if there is any change. Record your daily impressions in a dairy as well, if you keep one. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised, as I and others have been, that your periodic slow periods are much less frequent once you are taking it on a daily basis. They may even disappear over time.

3. Fish Oil (EPA+DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids). Neurons, unlike other cells, contain over 60% of their dry weight in the form of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs). 90% of these are either DHA, a major main component of fish oil, or a close cousin called Arachidonic Acid (AA). It is hard for mammals to make PUFAs from other dietary fats, and these special brain-protecting substances are found in highest concentration in fish, shellfish, organ meats, and wild game, all of which humans ate larger amounts of back when we had a preagricultural diet, more than 20,000 years ago.

Eating meat has its own hazards, and should be minimized in a healthy modern diet, but as this article on PUFA's and neurological disorders [7] notes, it is also true that our modern diet is PUFA-scarce, and a consensus is emerging that we are evolutionarily optimized to a high-PUFA diet.

Fish oil has an excellent safety profile and is known to be valuable for a wide range of diseases of aging (heart, joints, etc.) in addition to the brain. We keep discovering new ways that fish oils protect the brain, and in recent years we have proven that DHA both slows the age-related buildup of amyloid in the brain and also makes neuroprotectin D1, a substance that protects neurons from early cell death [8].

Get the the regular (and cheaper!) capsules, the ones that occasionally give you fishy burps, because they will break down quickly in your GI tract, and solubilize the curcumin faster, which means more of it (a small but still significant amount) will get out of your gut and into your bloodstream.

The American Heart Association [9] recommends 1 gram of Omega-3's a day ("preferably from fatty fish, not supplements") if you have coronary heart disease, and 2 to 4 grams if you need to lower your triglycerides. They propose you can take up to 3 grams a day without physician assistance. Coincidentally 3 grams/day is what a number of longevity physicians, like Steve Harris M.D. of the Life Extension Foundation, recommend for daily supplementation. If you buy your fish oil from a major producer like Costco.com and their Kirkland brand, three grams grams a day works out to ten of the regular strength, or seven of the extra strength capsules. Costco sells regular strength capsules for $9 for a bottle of 400, each giving 180 mg of EPA, and 120 mg of DHA Omega-3 fatty acids. At the recommended ten capsules a day this is 23 cents a day, which is quite an affordable investment.

4. Multivitamin Mix with E, C, and Folate. Vitamin E and C together have been shown in some studies to slow cognitive impairment, but studies with either E or C alone do not show this. Folate has also shown mild prevention of cognitive impairment, and is an excellent supplement for expectant mothers, as it reduces neural developmental defects in unborn children. It's hard to find vitamin supplements that really cover the spectrum that you need. If you don't want to pay the high price of the Life Extension Mix Tablets (4-6/day) with all of it's plant-based antioxidants, Twinlab's Daily One without Iron is a well-recommended and simpler alternative.

Physician-Monitored Steps

5. Ibuprofen or Natural Substitutes. Ibuprofen is hard on the stomach for most people (over time it kills goblet cells in the stomach lining and leads to ulcers) and so should be taken intermittently, with months-long recovery periods. But when taken over the long term this drug, and very likely also its natural substitutes (see below), will significantly lower your Alzheimer’s risk and delay its onset, according to a number of studies [12]. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen keep a lid on inflammatory mechanisms of your immune system, so they stop it from overreacting to amyloid plaques and tangles, so they grow slower in an aging brain. But long term use of ibuprofen can cause stomach upset and nausea in 10-20% of people, and high dose use may increase stroke risk so take it low dose, on a full stomach, and with a doctor’s supervision, and take a month or more off every few months as a safety factor.

There are new profens in the pipeline (e.g., flurbiprofen/flurizan) that apparently don’t cause stomach upset and have shown the same ability to prevent cognitive decline in animal models, so you may be able to switch to a better profen a few years from now. Unfortunately however, new designer pharmaceuticals, like the Cox-2 drugs, often also have unanticipated negative side effects that take years to discover, so it might be best stick to the tried and true ones until long term studies have been done.

In the meantime, you might try natural ibuprofen substitutes like Boswellia, Silymarin (Milk Thistle), and Tart Cherry Extract. Alert your physician if you start these in any serious amounts, so they can monitor GI and liver systems.

6. Statin or Natural Substitutes. Statins like lovastatin (Mevacor) and its successors can significantly reduce Alzheimer’s risk according to a number of studies [13], though other studies have found no effect [14], so this is still a controversial topic. They appear to work by several pathways, including lowering blood cholesterol, which greatly reduces heart disease risk, which is the number one killer in the US. They also lower the production of amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the brain, and lower your immune system’s overreaction to amyloid buildup.

These drugs are hard on your body, especially your liver. The first version of these was isolated from a poison produced by a fungus, Red Rice Yeast. See this article for a brief "hidden history" [15] of lovastatin's development. Few people realize this commonly used drug is a plant poison. As poisons they will harm your liver to some degree, will cause myositis in up to 5% of users and over the long term can, very rarely, cause severe problems like rhabdomyolysis.

With all these potential drawbacks, you would think these aren't worth the risk, but statins are still considered relatively safe by most physicians, and have been in use for almost 30 years by tens of millions of people, so the safety profile of the older ones is particularly well known. Most docs think that with appropriate supervision their potential problems can be headed off long before they become major issues, but here again, opinions differ. Statins will occasionally raise your liver enzymes as an early warning sign that your body is having problems metabolizing them, and that needs to be monitored by your physician with periodic blood tests. Because of the way statins change your body's cholesterol production machinery, if you need to get off of them you need to do it slowly, using a drug taper (decreasing dose schedule) prescribed by a physician, because your cholesterol levels will often shoot up to unhealthy levels afterward, in compensation, if you don't do a long and careful taper.

Natural statin substitutes include plant phytosterols, like beta-sitosterol. Alert your physician if you start these in any serious amounts, so they can monitor liver and other systems with regular bloodwork.

Do an NMR LipoProfile before and after you start either statins or natural substitutes to see how your lipid (HDL, LDL, VLDL, Trigyceride) profile improves. An NMR profile is much better than your doctor's standard cholesterol test, as it gives you LDL particle number, not just cholesterol fractions. It is LDL particle number, not total LDL, that is your greatest heart disease risk. That's what you need to follow. You could have LDL in the normal range but a high particle number, and you still have a major issue, getting that particle number down with diet, exercise, fasting, drugs, etc. Get a general practitioner who understands the value of this test.

Non-Dietary Steps

Lots could be said here, and a good place to start is a book like Making a Good Brain Great, by Daniel Amen, M.D., 2005 [16]. Dr. Amen was a keynote speaker at ASF's Accelerating Change 2005 conference [17], and he had fascinating insights to share.

7. Seek Good Stress, Avoid Bad Stress. Regular low-level, limited-time cycles of certain kinds of stress (fasting, learning, exercise, work), within your biological limits, followed by rest and recovery (sleep, good food, relaxation) qualifies as "good stress" (hormesis), and these stress/recovery cycles, just like interval exercise, will rapidly make your body and immune system stronger. But too much of anything (including sleep and isolation), at too high an intensity or for too long without a recovery/break period, will instead cause "bad stress," with elevated cortisol and inflammation, oxidative damage, and loss of brain cells. Too much work without regular periodic breaks, unrealistic deadlines, toxic managers, too much exercise, too much sex/porn, toxic environments (mentally and physically), excess drugs or alcohol, and many other things will cause elevated stress and death of brain cells. So seek good stress, avoid bad stress, and know the difference. Change your life, as fast as you can, to get rid of chronic bad stress.

The fastest way to kill bad stress once it's built up in your body is with aerobic exercise, which will rapidly lower high cortisol levels. Meditation, yoga, and sleep are also powerful, but aerobic exercise really is the foundation to stress management. Hot-room Yogas, like Power Yoga and Bikram Yoga, combine both aerobic exercise and parasympathetic nervous system activation, so they are particularly efficient ways to reduce stress. For internally generated cognitive and emotional stress, attitude is key, and can be changed with cognitive behavioral therapy and self-therapy. For more, try Stress Management for Dummies, by Allen Elkin, PhD, 1999 [20], a book filled with great tips on how to recognize and let go of unhealthy stress in your life.

8. Intermittent Fasting (IF). 2010 Info (also see 2017 below): See Eat, Fast, and Live Longer, BBC Horizon, Michael Mosely, 2012, for a good introductory 60 minute documentary on IF. Our bodies are designed to get a little bit hungry, every day, on a cyclic basis, for our entire lives. For millions of years early humans likely ate only once every day or two, so our bodies store ten times as many reserve calories in fat (ketone stores) as we do in glycogen (glucose stores). Our fat-burning system, ketosis, generates energy as ketones for our bodies and brains when we are fasting, and our cells switch into repair and recovery modes during ketosis, turning on a host of cell repair genes. Yet humans in the developed world almost never go into ketosis. Since Americans started eating three meals every day, with breakfast popularized in the 1920's by the food companies to sell more bread and cereal, we've eliminated beneficial daily hunger from our experience. But a little hunger makes you younger, like nothing else known to science. A few hours of ketosis a day will keep the doctor, and a whole host of brain diseases, away. For example, when you are in a fasting state, the ghrelin hormone, produced by your stomach cells, stops the production of amyloid in your brain (excess amyloid is the primary toxic agent that kills neurons in Alzheimer's disease). Hunger alone improves cognition and slows Alzheimer's in mice, and I bet this biochemstry works exactly the same way in people (we'll see soon enough). Here's a great 2007 paper by Varady and Hellerstein if you more evidence on the value of IF for longevity and disease prevention in humans. You will see a lot more in the next decade with regard to IF's brain and longevity benefits, believe me. But in the meantime, you can start experimenting and feel the benefits right now.

I recommend starting IF with the Fast-5 program,and doing it at least three days a week. It's nicely explained in the free ebook at Fast-5.com (also available at Amazon for $9). This is a 19 hour fasting, 5 hour eating program for every 24 hour day you do it, typically eating two meals, one at the beginning and one at the end of the five hour eating window, and snacking as much as you want, whatever you want, within the five hours. You can do it as many days a week as works for you. Since 2011 I have done Fast-5 five days a week, from Monday to Friday (my work week), eating normally on the weekends (my fasting holidays). On Monday to Friday I eat from 5pm-10pm (some days, 6-11), usually getting to bed about an hour after my last food. This approach to IF, with your eating period in the evenings, will make you very focused and productive in the mornings. Your stomach stays asleep, because you haven't had breakfast, so all your body's energy goes to your body and brain instead. In the last two hours of your fast you will notice some hunger twangs in the stomach, but that's when all the great brain benefits start to happen.

A little hunger works on your body in a way very similar to exercise. It's a bit uncomfortable while you do it, but very good for your body, so you keep doing it. Think of IF as lazy person's exercise. There is major release of growth hormone and BDNF, and upregulation of a lot of cell repair genes about 15 hours into a fast (the latter will also greatly lower your cancer and chronic disease risks). I typically exercise (running, swimming, cycling, Yoga, etc.) for about hour near the end of the fast, just before I eat. You might think that exercising while fasting would be too hard, and that you will "bonk" (get low blood glucose) easier, but the truth is that exercise kills your appetite while you are doing it, and your body very quickly learns how to not bonk, for typical ninety minute or less exercise regimens (always bring a bit of food in case you do bonk). You just have to give your body permission to learn to burn fat while exercising, not just glycogen. Your biochemistry becomes efficient, perhaps for the first time in your life. For those wanting more on the benefits of exercising while in ketosis, check out The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, by Phinney and Volek, 2012 (a companion to their Low Carbohydrate Living book mentioned above). Also, if you do IF more than three times a week, you may find you lose some weight as well. I lost 12 lbs (2 lbs/month), over my first year of Fast-5, taking me all the way back to my lean high school weight. But never forget that weight loss is only IF's incidental benefit. The real benefit of IF is lifelong brain and body health.

During the fast, whenever you need them I recommend tea or coffee without sugar, diet soda (stevia-sweetened brands are healthiest), sugarless gum, and brief walk or exercise breaks. Those will all quell your brief hunger pangs very effectively, and get you right back into a very focused and productive work mode. When I go out with clients for lunch I just get coffee without sugar, or iced tea. You won't be able to fast every day you intend to (sometimes there's social pressure to eat at work or family meals, for example). On days when you have to do hard physical labor for more than a couple of hours, or high stress/deadline work, you'll probably want to break your fast (have "breakfast") earlier than the full 19 hours. But go as long as you can until your body tells you to eat, loudly, not quietly. Short term hunger is good stress. Every day you get to fast is a day of biochemical exercise and rest/recovery for your body. Fasting can be mentally tough the first two or three times, because your brain expects to eat at certain times, but after the second or third day your brain learns the new habit, and it will stop trying to trick you into eating at the first twinge of hunger. IF is part of my lifelong regimen now, and I highly recommend it. When you've done Fast-5 for at least a year, read this article based on The Warrior Diet, by Ori Hofmekler, 2007. Once your body gets good at short term fasting, you'll find it gets much easier, just like other forms of exercise. On many evenings you may find, as I have, that eating over just a couple of hours, in one big meal (thus a 22 hour fast for that day) is just as easy as 19 hours. That will move you to a "one or two meal a day" eating plan, which is probably ideal.

2017 Info: For more than a decade now, various animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting slows or stops many molecular mechanisms in brain aging and degeneration, including amyloid plaque and tau tangle accumulation. Mark Mattson is one of the leading scholars in this area. This 2006 study by Mattson was big news a decade ago, and there have been many more studies since. Here's a 2016 podcast by Mark, and links all his research since, that you may really enjoy.

I've been doing intermittent fasting several times a week since 2010. Like Mattson himself at the time, I initially fasted for an average of 19 hours each day on Mondays to Fridays, restricting my eating to a five hour window (usually 5-10pm) on those five fasting days, and ate throughout the day on weekends. But as intermittent fasting got progressively easier over time, and as I learned to do things like exercise while fasting to keep my brain sharp the entire time, I moved to six or seven days a week. Research shows that the more you do it the better off you are, so it's just a matter of learning how to do it easily and well.

It was a bit tough the first six months, including staying on only coffee, tea, carbonated water with ice, or sugarless gum when others were eating around the table, but it became much easier with time. I also quickly learned that I was often the most attentive person at the table. While others were distracted by eating, the conversation and time with them was my "food". I also knew I'd be eating just a bit later in the day, when it was the best time for me. I learned to be patient, too. Being hungry for two hours, or three, is no big deal. Time moves slower, and the older we get, the more of a blessing that actually is. We become present. A fifteen minute nap in the sun, an aggressive stretch, a brief meditation, or a mile run out the front door of your workplace will get you right back into brain sharpness, believe me.

If you want the full scoop on intermittent fasting, Mike VanDerschelden's The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting, 2016, is the best book available to date, in my view. This book summarizes the great and growing body of evidence for intermittent fasting, and it will motivate you to make the lifestyle change.

There's also an "easy" version of intermittent fasting that I would recommend starting with if you are more than thirty pounds overweight, or if you would like an easy first step into the IF lifestyle. It's called the Mini-Fast Diet (basically, skipping breakfast and taking a walk when you feel hungry), and is well covered in Julian Whitaker's The Mini-Fast Diet, 2013. Whitaker's model will get you down to just 15-25 pounds overweight, but it won't help you shed those last pounds, and you won't get all the major brain and body benefits from fasting until you move up to 14 to 19 hours in your daily fast. That's just how the physiology and genetics work.

I'm not going to detail all the benefits of intermittent fasting here. If you have any desire to either lose weight or improve your health, just listen to the podcast above, or read VanDerschelden's book, then try it for yourself for at least a month. You will be amazed at how much better your brain and body feel. You'll also prevent all kinds of future diseases (cancer, neurodegeneration, heart disease) that you otherwise might have been subject to. Check it out. Seriously.

Even more than a Pisceterian version of Paleolithic diet, which I also recommend, I consider intermittent fasting the single smartest health decision I've made in my life so far. There's a cool new area of Paleolithic diet research, called Autoimune Paleo, that looks promising as well. Using blood tests to gauge the inflammatory response from the various foods we eat, and cutting way back on the worst ones (but still eating them in small doses, to retrain our immune/allergic responses) seems to me to be one of the most important frontiers of better diet. As that research matures, I'll add more about it here.

9. Sleep. Do your best to get your eight to nine hours a day. Take afternoon naps if you need them, particularly as you get older. There are whole cultures, in Spain, Latin America, and some Pacific Islanders, that follow the siesta sleep pattern, taking a regular afternoon nap and so sleeping at least twice every 24 hours. This, and a relaxing natural environment, are a great way to kill stress. Read a good book like The Promise of Sleep, by William Dement, M.D., 2000 [18], to understand how important it is to your health to get regular full sleep. Use eye patches or blackout shades if you can't get real darkness at night, and earplugs if you can't get real quiet. Invest in a good bed, one that makes you sleepy (Tempurpedics are particularly sleep-inducing, for me).

10. Exercise. In moderation, cardiovascular and non-cardio exercise are one of the healthy types of stress, and both can have a profoundly beneficial effect. The benefits of cadiovascular exercise are many, but may not be obvious if you've been out of practice for a while (in other words, you will likely feel worse before you feel better), so go slow at first, with multiple mild sessions a day until you can handle intensive 30+ minute excercise intervals. Yoga is a great balance to whatever other exercise you are doing. Once you are in shape, the mood elevating, brain focusing benefits of a good cardio workout will be noticeable for several hours after each exercise session. Until then, exercise will likely wipe you out and make you want to sleep instead, so push on through, and always nap after exercise if your body is asking for it. The Power of Full Engagement, by Loehr and Schwartz, 2004 [19], covers energy management, and has a good section on the endurance- and energy-boosting benefits of interval training: short intense bursts of exercise followed by quick recoveries. You should have at least one interval training day each week (for example a track workout, spinning or aerobics intervals, crossfit) as part of every great exercise regimen. Intervals build strength, speed, and endurance.

11. Learning. Epidemiological studies show significant brain benefits of intense bouts of lifelong learning. It really is exercise (good stress) for your brain. Aging With Grace, by David Snowdon, 2002 [21], gives a great account of the Nun study and what it says about healthy living, including the strong correlation between a low rate of Alzheimer's and high linguistic ability. Brain games, such as those you can play for 15 minutes a day at Lumosity.com, have also been shown to have both short and long-term brain benefits, and they get better designed and outcomes-based the more people play them. Just be sure to play games that are building skills you want to have, and you'll be very happy with the outcome of your play.

May you live long and with great health and wisdom!

Omissions, Corrections, Feedback? Reach me at johnsmart{at}accelerating{dot}org.


1. Life Extension Foundation A nonprofit org whose long-range goal is the radical extension of the healthy human lifespan.
2. Costco. A national deep discount retailer.
3. Twinlab. A leading manufacturer and marketer of high quality, science-based, nutritional supplements.
4. Curcumin: A Powerful Brain Protection Supplement, John Smart, 2005-2017.
5. Sabinsa.com. Manufacturer and supplier of high-quality fine chemicals, phytonutrients, and organic intermediates.
6. Cognicheck. Providing adults with an affordable means to screen aspects of their memory/cognitive processes online.
7. "Polyunsaturated Fats and Neurological Disorders,"
C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D. from Nutrition Science News, Sept. 2000, Vol.5, No.9.
8. “Scientists discover how fish oil protects the brain,” Karen Pallarito, HealthDay, 2005.
9. "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids," website guidelines, American Heart Association (April 2006).
10. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health, by T. Colin Campbell, 2005.
11. Being Vegetarian for Dummies, by Suzanne Havala, 2001
12. "Novel therapeutic opportunities for Alzheimer's disease: focus on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs," Townsend, et. al., FASEB J. 2005 Oct;19(12):1592-601.
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14. "Statin therapy and risk of dementia in the elderly," Li et. al., Neurology. 2004 Nov 9;63(9):1624-8.
15. "The hidden origin of statin drugs," Shane Ellison, April 2005, Newswithviews.com.
16. Making a Good Brain Great, Daniel Amen, M.D., 2005.
17. Accelerating Change 2005. A technology futures conference produced by the Acceleration Studies Foundation.
18. The Promise of Sleep, William Dement, M.D., 2000.
19. The Power of Full Engagement, by Loehr and Schwartz, 2004.
20. Stress Management for Dummies, by Allen Elkin, PhD, 1999.
21. Aging With Grace, by David Snowdon, 2002.