7 Facts from Healthy Heart to Healthy Brain
What is resilient, powerful, and operates at 300 miles per hour?
It’s our brain.
Non-stop electrical impulses coursing through the grey matter interconnect a massive superhighway of neurons and synapses. The way we communicate, create thoughts, deliver emotions, store memories, undertake tasks and make decisions is encased in this brain. We are who we are because of our brain.
Why is brain health such a hot topic these days? Just look around. The world’s population is aging.
An adult brain makes up only two percent of body weight, but requires 20 percent of the body’s oxygen and energy. Neuroplasticity is the unique way our brain adapts and reorganizes from injury or change. As the body ages, brain size begins to shrink, processing slows down, and overall the brain becomes less adaptable. When the brain loses blood supply, unconsciousness occurs in just eight to ten seconds.
Everyday living and quality of life are driven by our ability to process thoughts.
In simplest terms, cognitive ability has three stages: optimal function, mild cognitive impairment, and severe dementia aka Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia difficulties occur when nerve cells (neurons) in the brain are damaged or destroyed. Eventually, a person loses all ability to carry out even the most basic bodily functions of walking and swallowing. Dementia is fueled by three major risk factors -- age, family history, and genetics.
- Age. From age 65, risk doubles every five years. After age 85, nearly one-third of all people are expected to have some degree of dementia.
- Family History. The possibility of dementia increases with each first-line family member such as a parent or sibling who is diagnosed with dementia.
- Genetics. The presence of specific genes increases the likelihood of dementia within a family group.
- Modifiable Risk Factors. Head injury through a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, commonly known as TBI (traumatic brain injury), is preventable by taking proactive measures. Keep the heart healthy to keep the brain healthy.
Facts and Figures
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Within the Top 10 causes of death, this is the only ailment that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed down.
- Dementia is costly to society. In 2018, U.S. treatment payments will be $277 billion. By 2050, federal costs are expected to rise to $1.1 trillion.
- Every 65 seconds someone in America develops the disease. Alzheimer’s was first described in 1906. Its ranking as the top cause of dementia was determined in the mid-Seventies. National focus and funded research launched in the 1980s.
- 5.7 Million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s. Over 81% are age 75 or older. By 2050, an estimated 14 million adults will be living with the diagnosis.
- Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 123% between 2000 and 2015. Heart disease deaths have decreased 11%. Dementia kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- 44 percent of Americans fear Alzheimer’s more than any other ailment. Accurate early diagnosis might save $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs.
- 16.1 Million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients. Eighty percent of these are in-home family members.
So how do you reduce risk of dementia?
Utilize some simple strategies that support the heart and brain connection.
- Exercise & Move. Aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day improves mood and cognitive abilities.
- Eat Up. A Mediterranean diet regimen centered on plant based food, fish, olive oil, nuts and whole grains are healthy and nutritious.
- Medical Matters. Know the benefits and risks of meds you take, keep blood pressure under control, and do regular balance exercises to strengthen the body and prevent falls.
- Sleep More. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Poor sleep and insomnia can affect memory and thinking abilities.
- Mental Challenges. Learn new things and let new experiences broaden your viewpoint. Practice mindfulness to reduce anxiety and increase neuroplasticity in your brain.
- Get Social, Get Outside. Interact with real people in social activities to brighten your outlook.