Keep Your Brain Healthy by Keeping Your Heart Healthy

shutterstock_44733634Many of us fear getting some form of dementia when we get older, such as Alzheimer’s disease. There are steps we can take that will increase the odds that we will maintain a healthy brain as we age. The good news is that the same steps that help keep our hearts healthy can also protect our brains.

When we are young, we take our brains for granted. When we are twenty, misplacing our keys does not trigger a fear that we are developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, as we get older, we start noticing more and more episodes of forgetfulness. We forget people’s names, we forget appointments, and we forget why we walked into a room. Even if we laugh off some of these episodes of forgetfulness, some part of us does start to worry that this is the beginning of some form of dementia. If you want to increase the odds that your brain stays healthy throughout your life, there are lifestyle habits that are associated with better brain function in old age. These consist of fairly simple, no-nonsense tips that involve better nutrition, mental stimulation, social contact, exercise, and stress reduction.

If you want your brain to stay healthy, you don’t have to learn a lot of new habits in addition to what you would do to keep your heart healthy. The lifestyle tips that benefit your brain will also help your heart. There is a good reason for this. The brain is nourished by the blood your heart pumps to all its billions of cells every second. If your heart no longer pumps well, and if the complex network of tiny arteries become clogged by fat deposits, your brain cells will not be able to function well. The free radical molecules that damage the lining of your blood vessels can also damage brain cells.

Here are some lifestyle tips to incorporate that will benefit both your heart and your brain:

  • If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to get it into a safer range.
  • Increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids by consuming more oil from plant sources such as flax and walnuts, and eat ocean fish such as salmon.
  • Cut down on your use of commercial salad dressings containing a lot of Omega-6 fatty acids which are associated with increased inflammation in the body.
  • Cut down on your intake of foods containing hydrogenated oils and transfats, such as fried foods and margarine.
  • Cut down on your consumption of saturated fats by switching from red meat to poultry and fish, or go completely vegetarian.
  • Increase your consumption of fresh fruits and berries. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants that can help protect brain cells from suffering free radical damage.
  • Nutritional supplements containing a balanced vitamin B complex as well as the vitamins C and E can be beneficial to the brain as well as the heart.
  • Get your body moving! Go for a long walk every day, or find some other form of regular exercise program.
  • Find ways to reduce stress. Cut back on your obligations if you are doing too much. Simplify your life.
  • Take up some form of meditation that can help you relax and reduce your stress level.
  • Stay involved in life. Spend time with loved ones. Keep learning new things.

By implementing these measures in your life, you will be helping both your heart and your brain to stay healthy.

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About Kim Roy, LPN

Kim Roy, LPN, Nursing Supervisor - Kim is the Nursing Supervisor and team leader for the Alzheimer’s Specialty Care Team for Charlotte’s Angels Home Care Services in Joplin, Missouri. Her experience includes being the Director of Nursing in an assisted living and memory unit to working in Hospice as the Director of Nursing and Marketing. Kim continues to provide Alzheimer's / dementia training and educational support to families through the Alzheimer’s Specialty Care Team in SW Missouri. Kim is also certified as a Alzheimer's / Dementia Trainer.