5 Important Health Numbers You Should Know

SPECT scans of NFL Football Player's Brain Before 110 lbs. Weightloss. Daniel Amen, MD

To review the first 2 steps: To decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia you must:

  1. Develop brain envy, or fall in love with your brain.
  2. Get a baseline assessment of your brain’s health and function.

Optimize your important health numbers, not just normalize them.  

Who wants to be normal? Fifty percent of people age 85 and older will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 50%!

That’s normal and I want no part of it.

Here are several of the major health numbers I want you to know and optimize at least on a yearly basis. There’s a comprehensive list of these numbers and the optimal ranges in my new book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

BMI or Body Mass Index

There are many studies now that report as your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, making it the biggest brain drain in the history of the U.S. On top of that, obesity is a risk factor for depression and dementia. It is critical to get your weight under control and knowing your BMI prevents you from lying to yourself about your weight. In my experience, when you get your weight under control, you can reverse the damage done to your brain.

Fasting blood glucose

Normal is between 65 and 100mg/dl. But to be optimal, I prefer that number to be below 90, because when it’s above 90 there’s a greater chance you will develop diabetes in the near future.

And, diabetes is a disaster for the brain; it is something you have to fix. As your fasting blood sugar level goes go up blood vessels become brittle and are more likely to break, thereby increasing your risk for strokes, depression and dementia.

C-reactive protein

C-reactive protein is a measure of inflammation.

Inflammation, which comes from the Latin word for fire, is associated with many chronic illnesses, including depression, dementia and pain syndromes. When C-reactive protein is high it is like you have a “low level fire” in your body destroying your organs. While the normal range varies between labs, I really want it 1mg/liter or less to be optimal.

Vitamin D

Normal levels are between 30 and 100ng/mL. I prefer my patients to have their levels between 50 and 100, because optimal vitamin D levels can help decrease inflammation, improve your mood, and help with weight loss.


Ferritin is a measure of iron stores. Too little iron is associated with being tired and anemic, but too much, even high normal levels, is associated with stress, heart disease, and aging. Some scientists think women live longer than men because they lose iron through blood loss when they have their menstrual cycles.

If your ferritin level is too high, you can lower it by donating blood, which is good for you and good for someone else. It’s also much more fun than being bled by leeches. I was in Istanbul last year visiting the spice market, where I actually saw leeches for sale. Now you know why— bloodletting lowers excessive iron stores and helps keep you healthy.

I prefer donating blood, thank you very much.

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