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  • These 5 Best Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease Can Protect Your Brain Too

    What is right for your heart is also good for your brain.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
These 5 Best Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease Can Protect Your Brain Too
PHOTO BY iStock
  • It’s so easy to let our guard down and indulge in unhealthy habits like there’s no tomorrow. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but there is a tomorrow, and it involves our kids. A new year is a good time as any other to remind ourselves to keep everything in moderation. In fact, doing so means you are taking care of your heart and brain health.

    What’s right for your heart is also good for your brain

    According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, brain health rests on heart health. “We have long known that the diseases and conditions that clog the arteries of the heart also clog the arteries of the rest of the body, including the brain,” writes contributing editor Monique Tello M.D., MPH.

    Dr. Tello makes the connection between the two vital organs by pointing out that it all boils down to damage of the arteries, the blood vessels that are critical for blood flow and oxygen delivery to the organs.

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    “Arterial damage leads to arterial blockages, which lead to heart disease and heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementia.”

    According to the article, more researches are linking Alzheimer’s dementia to the same risk factors that cause heart disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementias: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

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    “The evidence is substantial: studies show that people with these risk factors are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, studies also show that people with Alzheimer’s disease have significantly reduced brain blood flow, and autopsy studies show that brains affected by Alzheimer’s can also have significant vascular damage,” Dr. Tello writes.

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    How to reduce your risk of heart disease and protect your brain

    The same prevention guidelines that are attributed to a brain disorder like dementia are also the same recommendations for heart disease prevention. Given this, Dr. Tello drives the message that those with a family history of dementia and even those with mild cognitive impairments like forgetfulness and confusion can reduce the risk if they live a “heart-healthy lifestyle.”

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    Dr. Tello cites the following measures that are mainly based on diet and lifestyle changes.

    Exercise regularly

    At least 150 minutes a week of any activity is number one on the list of evidence-based actions you can take, advises Dr. Tello. “Exercise clearly lowers the risk of dementia, even Alzheimer’s. Studies show that people who exercise more are less likely to develop dementia of any kind, and this stands even for adults with mild cognitive impairment.”

    Adopt a plant-based diet

    There is substantial research evidence showing that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables (aiming at five servings per day), whole grains, healthy fats, and seafood is associated with a significantly lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. “This approach to eating is often referred to as the Mediterranean-style diet, but it can be adapted to any culture or cuisine,” adds Tello.

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    Avoid processed food

    According to Dr. Tello, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends avoiding toxic, inflammatory foods like processed grains (white flour, white rice), added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats like butter and fatty meat. She also noted that the WHO does not recommend taking any vitamins or supplements for brain health “because there is no solid evidence showing that these have any effect whatsoever. Just eat a healthy plant-based diet and avoid unhealthy foods as much as possible.”

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    Quit harmful habits

    Vices like smoking and alcohol use should be avoided or totally eliminated, especially for those who already have cognitive concerns.

    Build positive relationships.

    Getting enough good sleep, positive relationships, and social engagement have been shown to protect cognition, according to Dr. Tello.

    Indulged a bit much and wondering about intermittent fasting? Read this before trying it.

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