Getting older does not mean you will get dementia. Factors such as a diet, amount of physical activity, and family history play a role. But did you know keeping a healthy heart and mind also helps keep your brain healthy?
Heart Health & Brain Health Go Hand in Hand
The heart pumps blood into your organs including your brain thus having a heart-healthy diet and habits keeps your heart healthy which leads to a healthy brain. This includes:
- Mediterranean Diet (especially for older adults): green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine.
- Staying physically active: varies depending on age and physical condition. Learn more about your recommended physical activity through the World Health Organization.
- Not smoking
- Getting enough sleep: varies by age group, according to the Sleep Foundation.
- Healthy social life: reasons this works, according to this study, is that socializing influences your behavior, like your health habits; strong social support “reduces stress or fosters a sense of meaning and purpose in life”; and helps various body systems like immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than once per day.
- Control your blood pressure via a diet “rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in salt (sodium) and saturated fat”
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get diabetes under control “Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.”
Keep Your Mind Active
- Use all your senses by challenging them by, for example, take cooking classes or yoga classes.
- Meditation: “Research shows that five-ten minutes of mindful meditation can help calm your brain, making it easier to sleep and reducing anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion.”
- Keep learning new things: for example, learn a new skill or topic, or consider volunteering or mentoring.
- Disconnect from your devices for a set amount of time daily then increase it week-to-week.
- Believe in yourself: this increases your chances of success at keeping your mind sharp.
- Prioritize your brain use: do not waste your mental energy on remembering things you can use your phone or paper for (i.e. birthdays, item locations, etc.). Instead, use your mental energy towards learning new things.
- Reinforce memory by repeating what you have just learnt including one’s name in conversation and what you have read.
- Incrementally perform these mental exercises: just like weight lifting, start off slow then increase the amount gradually. For example, you may start off doing them for a few minutes a day for a week then the next week you do it for an hour daily, then so on.