Three Factors That Improve Your Heart Health and Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s
When embarking on the journey of wellness in your golden years, it's crucial to remember and protect the intricate relationship between your cardiovascular health and cognitive well-being. February, known as American Heart Month, provides us with the perfect opportunity to shed light on a topic close to our hearts - the connection between Alzheimer's and heart health. Research has shown a compelling connection between cardiovascular health and the risk of developing Alzheimer's or other dementias.
The Heart-Brain Axis
Often, we think of our organs as separate, but they all exist in the same eco system; the intricate network of blood vessels that nourishes the brain is influenced by the same factors that impact heart health. Picture the heart and the brain as interconnected hubs of vitality, working in harmony to sustain our overall well-being. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to every nook and cranny of the body, including the brain. This symbiotic relationship is commonly referred to as the "heart-brain axis." When disruptions occur in the cardiovascular system, they can reverberate through this axis, potentially affecting cognitive functions.
Alzheimer's and Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Several shared risk factors contribute to both Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular issues. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity are among the culprits that can compromise both heart health and cognitive function. By addressing these risk factors, individuals can potentially reduce their susceptibility to both conditions.
Now, let us explore how lifestyle choices play a pivotal role in safeguarding our heart and brain. Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a heart-healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep, are all proactive steps towards supporting overall well-being.
Physical movement is one of the greatest things you can do for your heart and brain health. But what if you are not in good health already? Often, people give up because the odds seem greater than the potential impact. Nevertheless, research has shown that any physical activity improves cardiovascular health and brain health. Of course, it is ideal to aim for movement every day. It is more important, however, to remember that all movement, even minimal movement, is better than no movement at all. To get started, look at your existing amount of physical activity and ask how can you move just 1% more today than you did yesterday? You might be wondering, what about our family and friends who use assistive technology, like wheelchairs or walkers? Considering the movement they can do is important. Can they raise their arms or do leg raises while seated? Doing what you can, with what you have, where you are is a great way to build stamina.
It is not just physical activity that makes great heart and brain health. Food matters, too. Every food that is good for your heart is also good for your brain. Much like we can build stamina in exercise, we can also build better food habits. If you are someone that does not eat a lot of fruits or vegetables, practice adding one to a meal. Sometimes getting more vegetables and fruit can be as simple as chopping the lettuce for a salad or slicing the apple instead of eating it whole. Meat is not always bad, but instead of having a plate full of meat, try eating equal amounts of fruits, vegetables and meat. In the later stages of life, many people become disconnected to their food because someone else is preparing it. They lose touch with the diversity of all the amazing food options. If variety is the spice of life, it can also literally be the spice on your food. If you have control over the food you eat, try a new recipes, add a new spice to your repertoire. Even these little changes bring big results and not just to our physical body. The more we take care of ourself, the better our self-esteem and sense of adventure.
Get Your ZZZZZ’s
Sleep is critical to heart and brain health. It might also be the one thing we can improve which has the greatest leverage on our health. When we sleep, our body may be still, but our brain is highly active. Our glymphatic system is busy removing toxins which are responsible for neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s. Quality sleep also improves heart health by lowering blood pressure, which is a common risk factor for Alzheimer’s. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. There may be simple solutions.
As we celebrate American Heart Month, let's embark on a journey of self-care that encompasses both heart and mind. By understanding the intricate relationship between cardiovascular health and brain health, we empower ourselves to make informed choices that contribute to a vibrant and fulfilling life. Together, let's embrace the wisdom of age with grace, ensuring that our hearts and minds continue to beat in harmony for years to come.