“There is increasing evidence connecting cardiovascular risk factors with brain health,”
-- Dr. Seth Martin, cardiologist at Johns Hopkins
And yet many family caregivers of loved ones with dementia are not aware of this connection.
Understanding the relationship between heart and brain health is especially important in keeping individuals with dementia as healthy and mentally sharp as possible.
What better time than American Heart Month to learn more about heart health and how it can impact our brains.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) notes serious health issues impacting the brain that emanate from heart disease:
- Stroke. Often referred to as a “brain attack”, it occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked due to a blood clot. This causes a burst blood vessel which kills brain tissue and, bringing memory loss and/or other disabilities.
- Vascular dementia. A rarer form of dementia, this is the result of multiple “mini strokes” that occur, often without the awareness of the individual experiencing them. This causes impaired thinking, memory loss and often personality changes.
The Mayo Clinic defines vascular dementia as “a general term describing problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory and other thought processes caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to the brain.”
How can family caregivers optimize the heart-brain connection to keep their loved ones healthy? Here are a three tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Limit salt. Sodium is known to increase blood pressure. Foods like pizza, chips and salty deli meats should be reduced to a minimum.
- Limit alcohol. Excessive amounts of alcohol are known to raise blood pressure.
- Eat foods rich in potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Finally, something you can increase! Try introducing more fish, like salmon and mackerel, into your diet. Bananas and leafy green vegetables are rich in potassium which can help lower blood pressure.
Finally, for those with a sweet tooth, try replacing that donut with a square of dark chocolate. Researchers have found that one square per day is a delicious way to help lower blood pressure. But just one square!
As far as we’re concerned at our Anthem Memory Care communities, every month is heart month (and brain month). It gives all of us an opportunity to evaluate our daily routines and find ways to adjust our lifestyles to keep our hearts, and our brains healthier!