We all know about the serious effects of stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but how often do we think about the health of our brains? Of course it’s important to eat a healthy diet and exercise our bodies, but it’s also important to keep our minds sharp. The Alzheimer’s Association conducted research that showed a combination of good nutrition, physical activities, mental challenges and social activities help to maintain and improve brain health. When you include good heart health management, you may also slow cognitive decline.
The Mediterranean Diet is a delicious way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, heart disease and cancer. Key components of this diet are vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fruits. Olive oil replaces butter and other fats, and a handful of nuts are recommended daily. Red meat is limited to a few times a month, with fish and poultry included in meals twice a week. Use traditional herbs and spices to flavor food instead of the salt shaker, and even enjoy a small glass of red wine if allowed in your diet. And choose low fat cheese and other dairy products. May is International Mediterranean Diet Month, so celebrate by having some hummus and veggies for good health and good taste.
It’s easy and fun to exercise your brain with puzzles and games of all kinds, a class to learn something new, playing cards with friends, arts and crafts, or reading and writing. Enjoy yourself and keep your brain healthy at the same time. It’s just as important to exercise your brain as your body.
High Blood Pressure & Stroke
Your healthy diet and exercise regimen will also help you control high blood pressure and the risk of stroke, which also affect your brain. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight, diet, exercise and take your medication if prescribed. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke in this country.
Stroke is the result of a loss of blood flow to an area of the brain due to a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel. The brain is damaged by the loss of oxygen and blood. People of any age can have a stroke, but it is estimated that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Good control of blood pressure, diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the keys to preventing a stroke. Eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol use, quit smoking, and stay active to reduce your chances of stroke. May is Stroke Awareness Month and High Blood Pressure Education Month, so remind your friends and family of the benefits of keeping your head and brain healthy.
Conditions Beyond Diet & Exercise
Genetics, not brain health, is responsible for Huntington’s Disease. May is also Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month, and the goal is to educate people about this inherited progressive disease that breaks down nerve cells in the brain. This degeneration results in a loss of physical function and causes depression and other serious psychiatric problems. There is no cure, but there are medications to help treat the symptoms and associated problems. Early diagnosis is key, with people between 30 and 40 at the highest risk of contracting the disease.