In my previous episode with Lisa, we talked about how while there is no such thing as a gendered brain, there are differences in the brain health risks for men and women. In today’s episode, Lisa is going to help us understand how we can mitigate these risks and start protecting our brains and boosting our brainpower—by using strategies that can be applied by anyone, no matter their gender.
An international researcher in Alzheimer’s prevention, author of the incredible new book The XX Brain, and a nutrition expert and neuroscientist, today’s guest Lisa Mosconi has years of invaluable nutrition and neuroscience knowledge from a career spent working to prevent brain deterioration.
In this episode, we’ll explain the differences between female and male brains, including differences in health risks. Lisa will tell us why medical research and healthcare can be flawed for women, and why we should be talking more about women’s brain health. Finally, Lisa will take us through some easy steps so all of us can start taking better care of our brains on a daily basis.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FEMALE & MALE BRAINS
- There is no such thing as a gendered brain. When looking at brain scans of female and male brains, there is no way to tell the brains apart.
- There are differences in the way our brains age, in ways that matter for our health.
- Women have an increased risk of many conditions that affect brain health. As compared to men, women have:
—2x the risk of anxiety, depression
—3x the risk of autoimmune disorders that attack the brain, like MS
—4x the risk of headaches and migraines
—Increased risk of brain tumors
—Increased risk of dying from a stroke
—Increased risk of Alzheimer’s: for every 3 Alzheimer’s patients, 2 are women.
HEALTHCARE FOR WOMEN
- Medicine is gender-biased. Many health recommendations are based on studies conducted on men, yet get applied to both genders. Similar biases exist in neurology and psychiatry.
- As an example, within cardiology, doctors are trained to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack that more commonly occur in males, including chest pain and pains shooting down the left arm. Women are 7x more likely to be discharged in the middle of a heart attack than men because they experience different heart attack symptoms: nausea and pains in the neck.
- Historically, medical professionals believed men and women were exactly the same, just with different reproductive organs, leading to a reductive understanding of what a woman actually is.
- We never talk about women’s brain health, but we need to because our brains are one of our by far best assets. Our brain is essential to our vitality, happiness, and our capacity to enjoy life comes from a healthy brain and a healthy mind.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
- Lisa’s new book, The XX Brain, covers the 8 pillars of Alzheimer’s prevention for women that are grounded in science and shown to work.
- Mental stimulation is important in order to keep the brain active and plastic. The more neurons that act together at the same time, the stronger the connection that gets formed.
- What learning is for your brain, exercise is for your muscles.
- The best way to stimulate your brain is to challenge it by learning something new. If you are already good at something, don’t do more of it, try something else.
- One study that involved hundreds of women being tracked for over 40 years found that women who lead a sedentary life have a 30% higher risk of Alzheimer’s. Those women with higher cardiovascular fitness in midlife experienced a reduced rate of Alzheimer’s, at a rate of practically zero.
- Blood flow is crucial to brain health. You don’t have to do jumping jacks every day, just make sure that your heart gets stimulated.
NUTRITION AND BRAIN HEALTH
- Nutrition: if you are going to pick one protective measure for your brain, start with nutrition. Most people eat three times a day, so you have three chances to do something good for your body and your brain every day of your life.
- Try these nutrients shown to be supportive of women’s brains: fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These assist with lowering the risk of dementia, depression, infertility, postpartum depression, and anxiety.
- You can try including olive oil, almonds, flaxseeds, and salmon in your diet.
- Stay away from processed foods, fast foods, packaged foods, and some takeout. Be careful with the quality of your food and try to eat fresh food that has been prepared at home when possible.
SHARE WITH US
- Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@jimkwik & @dr_mosconi) and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us!
- Check out Lisa’s book, The XX Brain!
*Please note, this episode is educational only and is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.*