By Kac Young PhD, ND, DCH
In a recent interview, Dr. Peter V. Rabins, acclaimed author and geriatric psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins posed the question: “Do you know what is the best way to protect your memory and prevent dementia?”
If you answered, stay heart healthy, you’d be right. According to Dr. Rabins, controlling high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are absolutely critical to cognitive function. Fresh evidence based research reported in the Annals of Neurology suggests that people who closely follow a Mediterranean type diet have a 40 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of relying on pills and supplements, follow a heart-healthy diet rich in vegetable, fruits and low in saturates fats, salt and sugar The food you eat, not the pills you take, can prevent or slow the rate of cognitive decline.
The second thing he mentioned was getting enough rest and sleeping enough hours. While many of us have trouble sleeping at night we may think it’s no big deal — right? New studies show that getting adequate sleep plays an essential role in learning new information, relating to names, recalling dates, faces, facts, specific events and overall cognitive function – in short forming memory.
Exercise is another key to protecting the memory and reducing the risk of dementia. The Mayo Clinic tells us that physical activity seems to help the brain not only by keeping our blood flowing but it also increases chemicals that protect the brain and tends to offset some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occur with aging.
Exercising several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes may:
• Keep thinking, reasoning and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
• Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
• Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease
We all know that living a stress-filled life is unhealthy. Turns out stress is worse for us than we thought. Johns Hopkins researchers have linked high levels of the stress hormone cortisol with poor cognitive performance in older adults.
New research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the dramatic changes which occur in the brain when under stress are linked to our emotions and scattered memory.
Chronic stress affects two important areas of the brain when it comes to memory: the hippocampus and the amygdala. In this new research, electrical signals in the brain associated with the formation of factual memories weaken while areas in the brain associated with emotion, strengthen.
According to these researchers, with increasing stress, our brains are wired to discount factual information and to rely heavily on emotional experiences.
If you don’t want your emotions to get the better of you, then reduce your stress. Take time to learn to meditate, get out for a long walk in nature, spend time with a pet, care for others, volunteer, whatever it takes to get you away from the pressures and stressors. Schedule it and just do it.
It’s no coincidence that heart-health and brain health or directly related and require the same kind of attention. Truly the heart-brain connection is crucial not only to cardio vascular health, but also to preventing memory loss and sustaining healthy brain function. Keep your brain and your heart healthy at the same time by taking positive steps to nourish them.
If you opt to start doing just these five things and do them faithfully and regularly, you have a high probability of preventing the onset of a heart attack, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
– Kac Young, a former television director and producer, has earned a PhD in Natural Health and is a Doctor of both Clinical Hypnotherapy and Naturopathy. She is the author of 10 books. Heart Easy is a system of nutritionally sound, delicious meals that promote heart health, long life and taste great. In the Heart Easy Cook Book sound nutritional advice is followed by family favorites that have been turned into heart healthy meals anyone can make and everyone will love.