Two of the most significant health threats facing you right now are heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
Don’t believe me? Check the facts: Nine out of 10 deaths from heart failure are in the 65-plus age bracket, and 7.3 million Americans have dementia. That number is expected to double in the next 20 years.
One specialist recently said, “We are now in the midst of a ‘silver tsunami’ of heart disease and heart failure,” a title that could easily extend to dementia and Alzheimer’s. As the population ages, the risk for these conditions and their potential dangers goes way up.
But these aren’t necessarily a natural part of aging, nor are they separate. In fact, what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. So, undertaking preventative lifestyle measures today can serve both body and mind well in the future.
You give yourself the best chance for physical and mental health by sticking to a few common practices. The first is staying active. Numerous studies show that moderate to vigorous exercise (brisk walking, raking, dancing, etc.) multiple times a week can vastly reduce heart disease risk factors and promote cognitive function. That means lower blood pressure, improved blood flow, and better memory.
Diet is another area that can do a great deal to protect your heart and mind. And guess what? A diet that’s good for your heart is good for your mind. Research indicates that both Mediterranean and DASH-style diets slash cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease. A residual effect of this is that nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood reaches the brain, increasing the likelihood of activity between its different regions. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats aid your efforts. One study found that eating a Mediterranean diet slows changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Lastly, maintaining social connections has benefits for both the brain and body. Meaningful relationships or participating in activities that promote engagement (courses, hobbies, clubs) can keep your brain fresh and prevent the closure of neural pathways. These connections also are associated with less stress and lower rates of anxiety and depression, all of which play a role in mental and cardiovascular health.
In short, if you want to give yourself a shot against two of the biggest threats to your health: exercise, eat more healthy plant-based foods, and socialize.
Nothing is a guarantee, but undertaking these three practices at any age can help you stay healthy and reduce your chance of adding to these bleak statistics.
Mohan Garikiparithi holds a degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade. During a three-year communications program in Germany, he developed an interest in German medicine (homeopathy) and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.