Maintaining heart health is crucial to your overall well-being. But did you know that keeping your heart healthy is also key to boosting your brain health?
Your brain health is tied to your heart health
Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide while dementia is fifth.
However, while “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” are used interchangeably, the two refer to different conditions. Most cases of dementia refer to vascular dementia, or “the decline of cognitive function due to the interrupted or inadequate circulation of blood to the brain.”
Compared to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is more complicated. Even though there have been many studies on the condition, experts have yet to determine an effective way of preventing Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, you can make lifestyle changes to prevent vascular dementia.
And the good news doesn’t end there. According to scientists, there is more proof of an association between vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Yet even if this alleged link doesn’t pan out, you can still benefit from adopting lifestyle changes that will help prevent vascular brain injury. Instead of aiming to treat a stroke, improve your heart and brain health by focusing on prevention.
How to prevent stroke and heart disease
As Dr. Joshua S. Yamamoto advised a patient, “the best way to treat a stroke is to prevent it.” He also emphasized the importance of being proactive to prevent a stroke. (Related: B vitamins are CRUCIAL to heart health, brain health and eye health.)
Strokes should be prevented because they can kill you. And even if you don’t die after suffering a stroke, you will be left a shell of your former self.
Yamamoto, a former Navy doctor who served in Kuwait as a cardiologist for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a practicing invasive-preventive cardiologist. He works with thousands of patients older than 65 and most of them are worried about the same problems: Disability and loss of their physical and mental function.
Strokes can be big, but they can also be small and cumulative. This means that “you can slowly lose working brain cells over time from interrupted or inadequate blood flow to the brain,” which is the essence of vascular dementia.
Yamamoto admits that even with many technological advances, the brain remains a mystery to many health experts. But if you want a healthier brain, he suggests feeding it, especially if you’re older. A healthy brain requires a regular, reliable and adequate blood supply, which means having effective circulation.
Detailed below are six simple but important things you can do to help improve circulation and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke if you’ve never had one.
- Know your risk. If you’re between 40 to 75 years old and have never had a heart attack or stroke, use the Check. Change. Control. Calculator to estimate your risk of having a cardiovascular event in the next 10 years. Certain factors can increase your risk, like smoking or a family history of early heart disease. Learning about your risk factors can help you determine which lifestyle changes will benefit your condition.
- Follow a balanced diet. Eating meals full of healthy ingredients like fish, lean animal proteins, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and plant-based proteins is crucial for your overall health. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, processed meats and sweetened drinks or avoid them altogether.
- Exercise regularly. Being physically active is important if you want to stay healthy regardless of your age. The average adult needs at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. If you’re not active, it’s better to start exercising now instead of regretting it later when you’re sick and weak.
- Maintain a healthy weight. The term “healthy weight” can differ for everyone, but the important thing is to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Consume fewer calories and exercise more.
- Quit smoking. Vaping isn’t a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes. You should also avoid secondhand smoke if you want to stay healthy.
- Manage conditions. If you are already diagnosed with conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, high blood sugar or diabetes, you are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. Certain lifestyle changes, like improving your eating habits, exercising more, managing your weight and quitting smoking, can help prevent these conditions.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Change your lifestyle habits to boost your heart and brain health.