Q: I am 43, and I keep hearing these ads for brain boosters. Should I take them? — Sara T., Memphis, Tennessee
A: Brain health depends on the health of your whole body. It reflects your cardiovascular health; your degree of chronic inflammation from obesity, diabetes and a disrupted gut biome; and your optimism and connectedness with others.
To keep your brain healthy, I advocate using smart nutrition and a few supplements, exercise, sleep habits, speed-of-processing games, medical health and diverse social interaction.
— Eating fatty foods expands the waist but shrinks the brain. In contrast, salmon and other oily fish, nuts, seeds, berries and whole grains, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory compounds, support brain health.
— A daily multivitamin (half in the morning and half at night) may also protect the brain. According to preliminary research, three years of multivitamin supplementation may lead to a 60% slowing of cognitive decline. And phosphor-creatine (4,000 milligrams a day) and CoQ10 (200 milligrams daily) help most people. Please talk to your health care provider before taking any of these.
— MRI scans show yoga done regularly builds new neural connections and maintains a thicker cerebral cortex and hippocampus, reducing age-associated brain shrinkage.
— Interval training also may be a brain booster. Moderate-intensity exercisers do best on episodic memory tasks, remembering their past activities. High-intensity exercisers do better on spatial memory tasks: they can remember where they parked the car! So mixing it up might give you both benefits!
— Sleeping seven hours a night helps neurons get rid of brain waste and adapt to changing input. Folks who sleep less than six hours nightly in their 40s and 50s are at increased risk for dementia.
— Getting regular checkups to track your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol or apolipoprotein B and blood sugar levels allows for early intervention to reverse developing problems.
— In addition, studies show folks with the most social interaction have the slowest rate of memory decline. Having a posse and a purpose are vital.
Q: I’m reeling since my best friend committed suicide at age 28. I don’t know how we all missed it. What should people look for and do if they suspect someone is at risk? — Rick F., Lansing, Michigan
A: I am so sorry that you and his family have had to experience this trauma. In 2020, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in kids ages 10 to 14 and young adults ages 25 to 34. The total number of suicides (45,979) that year was nearly twice the number of homicides (24,576).
Most suicides don’t happen without any warning, but the signs are often easy to rationalize or overlook and, if they are recognized, people are frequently reluctant to bring up the topic with someone in distress.
The possible warning signs include increased substance abuse, anxiety, agitation, difficulty sleeping or dramatic mood changes, social withdrawal, uncontrolled anger and reckless behavior. And if a person says flat out that they’re thinking about killing his or herself, take it seriously.
You want to talk to this person and offer comfort. Experts advise that if you think suicide is a risk, that you ask directly if the person is thinking about suicide. You can say, “I care about you. Some of the things you’ve said or done have made me wonder. Are you having thoughts about suicide?”
Don’t scold. Listen. Support. Then call 988, the national suicide helpline. Specialists will work with you to devise a plan to get your friend or family member the help that’s needed. Also, offer anyone in crisis information about reaching out 988 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK. And if a person is extremely distressed, don’t leave them alone. Call 911 for immediate help.
I hope that this helps you understand more about suicide and that your friends and family can support you as you deal with the sadness, confusion and even anger that it can trigger.
Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is “The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow.” Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email questions@GreatAgeReboot.com.