If a Boxer Who’s Been Punched 50,000 Times Can Improve Memory, You Can Too

Tony Jeffries

So many things can damage our brains, such as excessive drug or alcohol use, health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, infections like Lyme disease or Covid, and of course head injuries. And these can all have a negative impact on our memory. If you’ve been bad to your brain, if you have health issues, or if you’ve experienced traumatic brain injuries—even mild ones—you may be wondering if there’s any hope for your brain and memory. In fact, some of the most common questions the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics hear are, “Am I stuck with the brain I have?” and “Is my memory gone for good?” That’s what Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries wanted to know when he visited Amen Clinics for a brain scan.

Some of the most common questions the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics hear is, “Am I stuck with the brain I have?” and “Is my memory gone for good?” Click To Tweet

In an episode of Scan My Brain, Jeffries says, “If you asked me what I did yesterday, it would take a good 5 minutes to really think about what I did.” Now retired from the ring, the boxing entrepreneur, who is the co-owner of Box ’N’ Burn Gyms, was hoping a brain SPECT scan could help him find targeted ways to optimize his brain and enhance his memory so he can perform at his highest level. SPECT, which measures blood flow and activity in the brain, offers a picture of how the brain is functioning and shows areas that could benefit from optimization.

COMMON WAYS THE BRAIN AND MEMORY GET DAMAGED

Head injuries

Getting in a car accident, falling off a bike, or getting punched in the head causes damage to the brain and can lead to memory problems. Most people don’t get hit in the head as many times as Jeffries, who had 106 career fights. Jeffries estimates he’s had 7 or 8 concussions and has been hit 40,000-50,000 times. You don’t have to experience that level of repetitive trauma to have memory loss. Decades of research show that traumatic brain injuries—even mild ones—are a major cause of memory problems, but few people make the connection between the injury and forgetfulness.

In evaluating Jeffries’, Dr. Jay Faber, one of the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics, compares his brain SPECT scans to those “we might see in people who fall downstairs… play soccer and take a lot of hits to the front of the head… or who’ve been in a minor car accident.”

Excessive drug or alcohol use

Drugs and alcohol are toxins that damage the brain and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. On SPECT scans, heavy drinkers and drug users often have a pattern called scalloping, which makes the brain appear to have a bumpy surface. This is a sign of overall low blood flow, which is associated with memory problems and is the #1 brain-imaging predictor of future Alzheimer’s disease. A study at Johns Hopkins found that people who drink every day have smaller brains, and when it comes to the brain, size matters! A study at Amen Clinics analyzing 62,454 brain scans found that marijuana accelerates brain aging, making it the equivalent of 2.8 years older. In this study, blood flow was decreased the most in the right hippocampus, an area commonly involved with Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss of all types.

Health conditions that affect blood flow

The brain uses 20% of the blood flow in your body, and any physical condition that decreases blood flow impacts the brain and memory. Heart disease and diabetes are two common health problems that impact blood flow, which harms the brain. Having a heart attack significantly increases the risk for future memory problems, and so does diabetes. Research has found a link between the abnormal insulin levels seen in diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. The connection is so strong, some researchers are calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3” diabetes.

Infections

Infectious diseases are a major cause of memory problems and dementia, but they remain overlooked in the medical and psychiatric community, according to an editorial in JAMA by an international consensus group of 33 scientists. Brain SPECT imaging shows that Lyme disease is associated with overall low blood flow and scalloping. One of the most common complaints among people with Lyme disease is brain fog, including memory issues. Similarly, brain-imaging research on COVID, which is also associated with brain fog, reveals that the infection can cause inflammation in the brain.

HEALING THE BRAIN AND MEMORY

Healing after head injury

One of the most exciting things to come out of brain-imaging research is the fact that putting the brain in a healing environment offers the potential for improvement after a head injury. Even for Jeffries who has been punched in the face thousands of times, there is the ability to increase blood flow and optimize activity.

Among several recommendations for Jeffries, Dr. Faber suggested hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which uses pure oxygen to accelerate the healing process. In light of the scalloping seen in Jeffries’ brain, Dr. Faber explains that with HBOT, “we increase the oxygen concentration and atmospheric pressure, and it pushes oxygen across the blood-brain barrier and helps support these areas to get them smooth again.”

Like many people who see their brain scan, Jeffries thinks it’s a game changer. He says, “It gives me hope that I can improve that part of my brain, and I’ll be able to focus better and

have a better memory and ultimately live a better life. Without having the scans and without talking to the doctor and finding this stuff out I would never know what was going on, but

now I know.”

Healing damage from alcohol and drugs

To rehabilitate the brain and strengthen memory, it is best to eliminate alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is not a health food, as it is commonly portrayed. And marijuana is not innocuous. If necessary, seek a professional from someone trained in addiction treatment to stop drinking or using drugs.

Healing from health conditions

If you have heart disease or diabetes, it’s time to get serious about your health. To boost blood flow exercise regularly, limit caffeine, and engage in meditation or prayer. To manage diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and eat a low-glycemic diet.

Healing from infections

One of the first steps to overcoming chronic infections that affect the brain and memory is getting an accurate diagnosis. Work with an integrative (also called functional) medicine doctor to get to the root cause of your memory issues. Treating the underlying infection can be beneficial in boosting brainpower and improving memory.

When you put your brain in a healing environment, you give it the foundation it needs to operate at a more optimal level. Taking stock of where you are in terms of brain health can help you take the next step to a healthier brain and better memory.

Memory loss, addictions, and other brain and mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

2 Comments »

  1. Why are prescription drugs addressed?

    Comment by Bonnie — May 1, 2023 @ 3:59 AM

  2. Sorry, why are prescription drugs not addressed?

    Comment by Bonnie — May 1, 2023 @ 4:00 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us

Pre-order Daniel Amen, MD’s new book “Raising Mentally Strong Kids” and get 5 bonus gifts! Click here for details.

X