The common assumption is that lifestyle interventions, like diet and exercise, positively affect the heart, kidneys, and lungs - not the brain. However, scientific evidence has been accumulating to suggest the contrary.

Recently, the SPRINT-MIND study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has presented preliminary findings that show a reduction in blood pressure led to a reduced risk for the combination of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

The study also showed lower increases in white cerebral abnormalities seen using MRI scans, which are associated with increasing risks of dementia.

And when it comes to blood pressure, lifestyle interventions can be powerful tools.

  • Healthy diet. Although salt has a well-established link to blood pressure, according to Harvard Health, overall healthy eating patterns like the DASH Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, and the OmniHeart Diet are the best approaches for combating high blood pressure.
  • Exercise. A stronger heart means it requires less effort to pump blood. Less effort means less strain on your arteries, and thus, lower blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, both aerobic exercise and weightlifting can have positive, long-term effects on blood pressure. 
  • Stress management. Stress and chronic anxiety can lead to the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, practising stress management techniques, like time management, can work wonders for managing stress.
  • Sleep. Interruptions to sleep, like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and even sleep deprivation are known to increase risk of hypertension.

Brain Health Declines Over Time - Start Living Healthy, Today

Alzheimer’s Disease, the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., affects over 5 million Americans. And that number is expected to triple by 2050.

And there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s Disease.

The good news is that you can lower your risk by following these healthy lifestyle guidelines. It’s easy to think we are beholden entirely to our genetics. And while genetics clearly play a role, Dr. Sherzai of Loma Linda Medical Center suggests the majority of dementia risk lies in lifestyle and environmental factors.

In fact, Dr. Sherzai suggests 90% of Alzheimer’s Disease cases are preventable.

Healthy Dietary Patterns Go a Long Way Towards Reducing Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

Three large prospective studies in Chicago, New York, and Rotterdam found strong correlations between higher intake of total fat, saturated fats, and trans-fats with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

And as the NIH study suggests, other epidemiological studies, like this study using data from the China Health and Nutrition survey, show a correlation between high salt diets, hypertension, and cognitive decline.

Healthy dietary patterns like the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet that are based upon whole foods. Plant-heavy dietary patterns have become well established as protective against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

And as systematic reviews “indicate that the Mediterranean diet could play a major role in cognitive health and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” these benefits extend even further.

Lifestyle interventions are growing as a powerful first-line tool for reducing risks of declining brain health. And it’s never too late to start!

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