What’s good for your heart is good for your head!

February 20, 2018

Some of the strongest evidence about maintaining your brain links brain health to heart health.  Even though you can’t feel your brain working, it’s one of the most active organs in your body – your heart pumps about 20 percent of your blood to your brain, where billions of cells use about 20 percent of the blood’s oxygen and fuel.

If your heart isn’t pumping well — or if your brain’s blood vessels are damaged — your brain cells have trouble getting all the nutrients, energy and oxygen they need. Any condition that damages your heart or blood vessels can affect your brain’s blood supply.

How you can take brain health to heart!

  1. Adopt a long-term, heart-healthy ‘food lifestyle’,-  eating in moderation rather than a short-term diet. A long-term research study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life. Those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk of dementia.
  2. Reduce your intake of fat and cholesterol – studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol can result in high cholesterol levels which if left untreated can cause atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls) and affect the blood supply to the brain,. This increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia. High cholesterol levels may also increase the production of plaques on the brain that are thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Use mono and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, for example. Try baking or grilling food instead of frying. Get your cholesterol levels checked.
  3. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily lifestyle – walking or other moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day gets the body moving and the heart pumping. Many research studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are, on average, less likely to develop dementia. They are also more likely to have better cognitive function than those who don’t exercise. This has been found for people at middle age and also old age. Increased brain blood flow, healthier brain cells and reduced cardiovascular risk may all contribute to physical activity’s effects.
  4. Don’t smoke – smoking interferes with blood flow and oxygen to the brain and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Research studies consistently show that those who smoke have, on average, a higher risk of developing dementia compared to non-smokers. A review of the research concluded that smokers have nearly an 80% higher dementia risk The review also concluded that former smokers do not have an increased risk of dementia compared to those who have never smoked.  So there is evidence that quitting can bring down the increase in the risk of dementia associated with smoking.

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