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February is American Heart Month

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Heart Heath Tied to Brain Health

To me February is the love month but it’s also American Heart Month, created to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease which impacts more than 17.3 million people annually. Did you know that heart health is closely linked to brain health? According to the American Heart Association, following a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of having a stroke and it can also make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.

Consider these heart/brain wellness tips:

Eat more fish--Consuming fish (preferably oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna) at least twice per week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 36 percent. Additionally, the omega-3 fats in fish helps keep blood flowing to the brain. Oily fish also contains DHA. People with low DHA levels have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

Incorporate fruits and veggies into your diet--A study in the journal, Circulation, revealed that people with high blood pressure experienced improved blood flow following every serving of fruits and vegetables eaten, thus reducing blood pressure. Fruits and veggies are tied to brain health as well, with older adults over the age of 65 showing 40 percent less mental decline than study participants who ate few or no vegetables.

Limit saturated fats--Saturated fats found in fried foods, dairy and red meat are harmful to the heart. Research published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology revealed people who ate more saturated fat showed a higher risk of heart disease compared to those who ate less. A diet rich in saturated fats can negatively impact cognitive brain function as well.

Get moving—People, including older adults who do not exercise are twice as likely to get heart disease as those who maintain an active lifestyle. Exercise offers a wealth of physical benefits but it also has been linked to improved brain function and protecting one’s thinking skills. A Harvard University Health blog also pointed out that indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Quit Smoking--Smoking has been shown to shave 13-14 years off one’s life. In addition to lung cancer risks, cigarettes wreak havoc on the heart and brain. Nicotine increases your heart rate, causing increased blood pressure while carbon monoxide decreases the flow of oxygen to the heart, brain and arteries.

These are just a few tips that I hope were on your New Year’s resolution list.

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