6 Simple Things You Can Do to Take Care of Your Heart and Brain
There are many lifestyle changes that we can make to have optimal heart health and inadvertently take care of our brains at the same time.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
This reduces our risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease – and probably of dementia too. An excellent place to begin is to follow your health care provider’s recommendations about exercise and diet.
Many people find it helpful to keep a diary of their food intake and exercise every day. It’s also important to remember that alcohol contains many calories. You could join a local weight loss group to access support from your peers, and this is often a successful approach.
If you’ve attempted to make changes with limited success, your doctor will be able to offer you advice.
It’s recommended to exercise for at least half an hour, five times a week. You’ll need to be active enough to elevate your heart rate and get a bit short of breath. Walking, cycling, swimming, and exercise or dance classes are all perfect ways of doing this.
Regular physical exercise in middle-aged or older adults has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia. It’s also good for your heart and your mental health. Physical activity has many health benefits even if you have no desire to lose weight.
Smoking increases our risk of developing dementia by harming our lungs, heart, and circulation.
Also, if you smoke and would like to try quitting, talk to your doctor. They will be able to provide help and advice about stopping smoking.
Brain and Memory Exercises
Reading, doing puzzles, playing cards or learning something new are all great ways to exercise your brain. If you can keep your mind sharp, you’ll likely reduce your risk of dementia.
There is some evidence to suggest that keeping socially engaged and having a good social network can also reduce your dementia risk. So visit with people, invite them to come to you, join a club or volunteer – or take a class and combine learning with socializing!
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one with a high proportion of fruit, vegetables, unrefined cereals, oily fish and olive oil. Red meat, sugar, and processed foods should be avoided. Eating a healthy diet will help reduce your risk of dementia as well as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
You should try to drastically reduce your consumption of saturated fats (found in cakes, biscuits, and most cheeses) and limit sugary treats. Watch your salt intake as well, because salt raises your blood pressure and your risk of stroke with it. Always read the food labels to see what’s contained and seek out healthy options.
One study suggested that eating apples could reduce our dementia risk because they work similarly to Alzheimer’s medications that stimulate the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It’s also been recommended that coffee can help block the build-up of Alzheimer’s brain toxins.
Dark chocolate has also been shown to improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure. Fruits that contain fisetin, such as strawberries, mangoes, apples, grapes, and peaches could help reduce our dementia risk due to their anti-inflammatory properties according to one study.
Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
The recommended limits for alcohol consumption were changed in 2016. The new restrictions are now set at a maximum of 14 units each week for both men and women. These 14 units should be consumed over 3 or more days. This is the equivalent to four or five large glasses of wine or seven pints of beer or lager with a lower alcohol percentage.
If you regularly exceed these weekly limits, you will increase your risk of developing dementia. Also, if you are finding it difficult to cut down on what you drink, talk to your doctor about what support is available for you.
Most people will be invited to attend a regular mid-life health check at the doctors. It’s important to participate in this appointment and take control of your health.
It’s like a driver's test for your body and will include a check of your weight, blood pressure and possibly your cholesterol level too. These indicators are linked to dementia and the conditions that are now believed to be strong risk factors for dementia (heart disease, stroke, and diabetes).
You might already be living with one of these conditions long term, and if so you need to follow professional advice about medicines, lifestyle and how best to manage your illness.
If at any time you feel that you might be becoming depressed, reach out and seek help early. Don’t suffer in silence. There are many resources available to you to help change the way you feel.