By Anja Springthorpe
With an ever-growing older population, the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is rising. These conditions have a profound impact on quality of life and experts are eager to identify how to prevent onset of cognitive decline. The brain is fundamentally difficult to study and much of its functions remain a mystery. However, data indicates that dietary and lifestyle factors that prevent heart disease also reduce the risk of diseases of the brain.
The brain is a powerful organ that requires sufficient oxygen and nutrients. At any given moment, our brain holds around 20 percent of our total blood volume which verifies the need for a strong heart and healthy blood vessels.
It is well documented that consuming vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and unsaturated fats such as olive oil protects heart health. Avoiding sugar and saturated fat while eating less processed foods further reduces our risk of disease. In a nutshell, this eating pattern is comparable with the traditional Mediterranean diet, which focuses on healthy ingredients and preparation rather than reducing portions or counting calories. Studies confirm that the adherence to this diet also reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Go to Mediterranean Diet for Heart Health at www.mayoclinic.org.
To keep blood vessels strong and healthy, exercise is a must. Aerobic exercise raises the heart rate, keeping heart muscles strong and powerful. Exercise also triggers the release of anti-inflammatory substances that protect the brain from damage.
Stress has long been recognized as a major culprit for heart disease. Research found that stress also has profound impacts on brain health. Stress triggers a cascade of hormonal activity in the brain. Long-term exposure to these stress hormones is associated with mental decline and increased risk of disease.