Healthy Conversation Hearts: A Valentine for the Brain
Many people enjoy eating and sharing Candy Conversation Hearts for Valentine’s Day. But February is also American Heart Month, so we’re adding three important Healthy Conversation Heart messages to the mix.
This is the nice way of saying “Don’t Smoke!” Smoking causes atherosclerosis, the buildup of fat which can clog arteries. If you have a blocked artery in your heart, it can cause a heart attack. If the blocked artery is in your brain, you could have a stroke (which we also call a “brain attack”). Fat plaques can break off and block smaller blood vessels too, potentially leading to multiple blood vessel blocks in the brain, which can cause Vascular dementia.
Additionally, this habit also increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may account for 14 percent of all AD in the world, according to a 2014 World Health Organization report. This study also found that smoking increases the risk of developing any type of dementia by 45 percent.
Aerobic exercise, such as running and walking (and dancing!), has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks by 50 percent, strokes by 25 percent, and dementia by 50 percent. Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 2.5 hours per week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, as well as moderate-to-high level muscle-strengthening at least two days a week. More exercise provides more benefits!
Make it a point to exercise every day. Put it in your calendar, find an exercise partner or group, or go to a class. Most of all, make it fun and something you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.
To enhance heart and brain health, aim to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet with plenty of whole grains, not too much salt, and at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. According to an April 2009 study in the journal Circulation, the more fruits and vegetables people with high blood pressure ate, the better their vascular function. Remember juice is not as healthy due to its minimal amount of fiber. Also, processed foods often contain high amounts of salt, sugar and other additives, so avoid them when possible. Instead, prepare your own food! This allows you to control what’s in it and can ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet.
This year, be mindful of what you eat every day, for your heart—and for your brain.
By: Dr. Anne Lipton, M.D., Ph.D.