Maximize Mental Performance Naturally

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Maximize Mental Performance Naturally


Much has been written about improving memory, enhancing mental clarity, and staving off mental decline. However, many of the strategies can be categorized under two simple headings:

  1. Avoid key brain pitfalls
  2. Enhance overall brain function

Avoiding Key Brain Pitfalls

Worldwide, a huge toll on mental performance is being exacted by four common conditions: depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. All are eminently treatable—with simple lifestyle strategies. If we could just reign in the ravages of these diseases, we would do much in the way of improving long-term cognitive function.

Stroke is a well-recognized robber of cognitive function. However, high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as some of the medications used to treat these conditions, can also impair brain performance. Consider also the case of depression. Some twenty years ago, health professionals were still wondering just how much depression affected cognitive processes like memory. A 1995 meta-analysis (compilation of medical studies) convincingly demonstrated that “a significant, stable association between depression and memory impairment was revealed.”1

On top of all this, the numbers affected by these conditions are staggering. As summarized by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, some seven percent of U.S. adults experience a major depressive disorder each year with more than 350 million people worldwide having this diagnosis at some time in their lives. Appalling rates are also logged for high blood pressure and diabetes. For example, among those who are more than 65 years old, some two-thirds of the U.S. population has high blood pressure and one quarter has diabetes. Each year, some 800,000 Americans will suffer a stroke—the vast majority will survive, often with significant mental impairments.

What is amazing about each of these four conditions is that the nine LifeStart practices can decrease your risk of ever contracting each of them—and can help you decrease their ravages if you’ve already been affected.

Consider the example of stroke. A fascinating 2004 study identified 297 patients with a history of either stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) and compared them with 73 healthy controls. The following factors were significantly higher in those with cerebrovascular disease: hematocrit, plasma viscosity, plasma fibrinogen, and red blood cell aggregation.2 Although none of those factors are household terms, they are all factors that reflect blood fluidity. So, here’s the message: improve blood fluidity, decrease your risk of stroke.

How does one improve blood fluidity? Simply drinking adequate amounts of water is a great place to start. Regular physical exercise and a plant-rich diet provide further benefits. Furthermore, donating blood offers additional blood-fluidity benefits for many people. (Check out our website for my DVD miniseries, “Longevity Plus,” which provides more details on these and seven other simple steps to improving blood fluidity.)

Enhance Overall Brain Function

Amazingly, the same nine LifeStart principles are calculated to enhance your overall brain performance. Consider the following tips:

Improve blood fluidity to improve cognitive performance. Even if you are never destined to have a stroke, improving blood fluidity has been linked to improved cognitive function.3 Similarly, donating blood tends to improve mental clarity and cognitive function.4

Avoid caffeine for the best mental balance. Although caffeine ramps up stress hormones that can improve mental clarity, it impairs cognition and optimal brain performance. Caffeine may make users more alert, but it tends to leave them prone toward more mistakes. Furthermore, because caffeine is a stimulant, it can lengthen sleep latency, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Rest is critical for memory. You cannot encode and retain information without adequate sleep.

Caffeine also tends to enhance nicotine use, which in turn enhances caffeine metabolism, reinforcing the cycle of coffee drinking and smoking. Both caffeine and nicotine have vasostimulatory properties that can further impair blood flow.

Manage stress for a better brain. If you are fatigued or drowsy your cognitive function is not at its best. Stress may improve alertness and improve cognitive function in the short term, but it makes it more difficult to engage in higher level mental processing. Furthermore, elevated stress hormone levels interfere with the role of the brain’s hippocampus, an area vital for encoding memories.

Help your brain by choosing the right fats. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, studied 1,018 healthy individuals never diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. They discovered that men, 45 years old and younger, who consumed the most trans fats performed the worst on memory testing. Trans fats are most commonly found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. So stay clear of these fats and oils.

On the other hand, omega-3 fats are beneficial to the brain. They decrease the risk of stroke, lower blood pressure, and decrease your risk of depression. We recommend choosing omega-3 fats from plant sources such as flax seeds, walnuts, soy beans, and chia seeds. One of the ways that good fats help you is by making your nerve cell membranes more flexible, allowing for better nerve transmission.

Eat more good carbs to optimize neurotransmitter levels. Many lay people now realize that nerve messengers like serotonin and dopamine are necessary for optimal mental health and brain performance. These compounds are derived from protein constituents, the amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine. However, a wealth of scientific evidence has revealed a surprising conclusion: if you want better brain neurotransmitter levels you want to avoid a high protein diet, opting instead for foods rich in complex carbohydrates. Such items include root vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. By contrast, shy away from high-protein, high-fat animal products, which are almost always carbohydrate deficient.


The natural, lifestyle-based strategies found in the LifeStart acronym provide keys to reversing brain pitfalls and achieving better mental clarity and performance. To learn more about the nine strategies behind the LifeStart program, download the FREE LifeStart eBook. For best results, consult with your healthcare providers and tap into a local support center where you can surround yourself with a community of supportive peers. Our online directory will help you locate such individuals in your community. Also on our website you’ll find a variety of resources such as books, DVDs, and other health services that I and other medical professionals have endorsed that can help you maximize your mental performance naturally.


  1. Burt, Diana Byrd, et al. “Depression and Memory Impairment: A Meta-analysis of the Association, Its Patter, and Specificity.” Psychological Bulletin, 117(2) (March 1995): 285–305.
  2. Szapary, L., et al. “Hemorheological Disturbances in Patients with Chronic Cerebrovascular Diseases.” Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation, 31(1) (2004): 1–9.
  3. Elwood, P.C., et al. “Cognitive function and blood rheology: results from the Caerphilly cohort of older men.” Age Ageing, 30(2) (March 2001): 135–139.
  4. Janetzko, Karin, et al. “Effects of Blood Donation on the Physical Fitness and Hemorheology of Healthy Elderly Donors.” Vox Sanguinis, 75(1) (September 1998): 7–11.

Take the Next Step...

Join the LifeStart Clinics 30-day Program and get daily motivation plus personalized support to help you live sharper, leaner, longer, and better—in 30 days or less!

About the Presenter

David DeRose, MD, MPH
Host, LifeStart Seminars

For over 25 years Dr. David DeRose has been helping people improve their health through motivational presentations and natural therapies. He brings solid credentials as a board-certified specialist in both Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine in addition to holding a master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis on Health Promotion and Health Education. Known for his engaging presentations, Dr. DeRose is an award-winning public speaker, published medical researcher, syndicated talk radio host, and experienced college teacher.

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