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Capturing the Importance of Hearts and Minds

February 25, 2016

By Editor
So it’s February and while the cold and dreary days seem to roll endlessly on, this month is known for more than just the winter slog we’re experiencing. February 14th is of course Valentine’s Day, a day to acknowledge affairs of the heart.  But one day in February isn’t sufficiently long enough to consider ALL affairs of the heart. Which is why the entire month is designated as #HeartMonth .  The month’s sustained focus gives new meaning to affairs of the heart, both from the perspective of the organ’s wellbeing and its vital connectedness to the health of the brain.

Our overall health, both physical and mental is tied to both of these organs. Cardiovascular disease is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight. In terms of dementia, when your brain doesn’t get the blood flow it needs due to an unhealthy heart, it can begin to affect cognitive function. In vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, changes in cognitive ability typically occur suddenly following strokes, which block major brain blood vessels. 

 Researchers are exploring prevention strategies to determine whether exercise and diet can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive decline. While this promising research is still ongoing, controlling your risk factors for heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions can make a difference in your brain health.

A number of studies suggest that eating certain foods may help keep the brain healthy—and that others can be detrimental to cognitive health. A diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and is low in fat and sugar can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Exercise and other types of physical activity also have many benefits. Regular moderate physical activity can help maintain cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. And while we have heard about the hazards of smoking time and time again, it is important to remember that smoking interferes with blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thus making it a major risk factor not only for heart disease and stroke, but also cognitive impairments.  Lastly, reducing stress through relaxation, meditation or other stress reduction techniques is also part of a healthy lifestyle that can improve both brain and heart health.

So as the days of February and #HeartMonth are marked off and we flip the calendar page over to a new month, the heart-brain connection, by coincidence or not, is made even clearer - March is designated as #BrainHealth month.  Like the progression of those calendar pages, our body is always one day older than the day before and with that progression, we need to recognize and understand the connection of heart and mind.

For more information about dementia and brain health, visit our website.