by Anne M. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., Author of
This March brings us Daylight Savings Time, St. Patrick’s Day, and the start of Spring. So it seems like there’s no better time to start fresh (or continue on) with three habits proven to keep your heart (and brain) healthy. These practices not only can help people with memory loss or dementia, but have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia. It’s not just luck!
Get some fresh air
This is the nice way of saying Don’t Smoke! Smoking causes atherosclerosis, the buildup of fat which can clog arteries.
If you have a blocked artery in your heart, it can cause a heart attack. If you have a blocked artery in your brain, it can cause a stroke (which is also sometimes referred to as a “brain attack,” a term that may convey a bit more of the suddenness and seriousness of this problem). Fat plaques can break off and block smaller blood vessels, too. Blockage of multiple blood vessels in the brain can lead to Vascular dementia.
Smoking also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may account for 14% of all AD in the world, according to a 2014 World Health Organization report. This study also found that smoking increases the risk of developing any type of dementia by 45%. Yikes! DON’T SMOKE.
Speaking of fresh air: Winter is over. The world is your gymnasium. And there’s no membership fee.
Aerobic exercise, such as running and walking, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks by 50%, strokes by 25%, and dementia by 50%. Current guidelines recommend a minimum of two-and-a-half hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, as well as moderate-to-high level muscle-strengthening at least two days a week. More exercise provides more benefits.
Try making an appointment to exercise. Put it in your calendar and set an alarm. You might also find an exercise buddy or attend a class. Most of all, make exercise fun and something you love, so you’ll return to it again and again.
Eat those spring vegetables
According to an April 2009 study in the journal Circulation, the more fruits and vegetables that people with high blood pressure ate, the better their vascular function.
To enhance heart and brain health, aim to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet with plenty of whole grains, not too much salt, and at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Remember juice is not as healthful as it has little to none of the fiber of the fruit. And juices or smoothies bought from a store or restaurant may have added sugar.
Take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables in making meals. Processed foods often contain high amounts of salt, sugar, and other additives. Preparing your own food allows you to control what’s in it.
A good rule to remember is: Eat a rainbow! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may confer health benefits for your heart and brain that far outweigh a pot of gold.
|Dr. Lipton is a board-certified neurologist with specialization in dementia. She has been recognized as one of the best and most influential doctors in her field. Her experience includes compassionate clinical care for patients with dementia and their families; speaking to professional and lay audiences; and teaching medical professionals, students, and trainees. She has performed clinical, imaging, laboratory and pathological research and written numerous papers, chapters, and books pertaining to dementia. Dr. Lipton has served on the board of the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and is the lead author of The Common Sense Guide to Dementia for Clinicians and Caregivers.|
Thanks to Tribute Sponsor Aegis Living for their generous support of the 2015 Discovery Conference