According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the condition of your blood vessels may say a lot about your brain health. Smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure are considered the 3 main vascular risk factors regarding brain atrophy and loss of both gray and white brain matter. Unfortunately, these factors could lead to brain deterioration and they can be associated with an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Did you know? People with the highest vascular risk had around 18 ml, which is to say nearly 3%, less volume of gray matter compared to people who have no risk factors. This is brain tissue on the surface of the brain that contains most of the neurons. Neurons are the basic working unit of the brain which are designed to transmit information through your brain to your body. If they are damaged, your reactions and processing slow down.
White matter is deeper in the brain than gray matter. This tissue in the brain is made of nerve fibres. It naturally declines with age, but previous studies suggested that white matter loss is linked to slower thought processing and reduced executive functioning. Vascular risk factors may speed up this loss. The research indicates that damage to the brains wasn’t even contaminating the whole brain. Indeed, some areas are more likely to be impaired by the atrophy, and these areas can seriously affect cognitive health.
Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, overeating, eating junk food, living an inactive lifestyle. Good news is “it’s never too late to improve your brain”, so here are our tips to keep your brain healthy:
- Exercise: try to have regular physical activity. If you don’t feel like exercising, just try to walk instead of driving. Sedentary adults who participated in a new habit of walking regularly during a year showed significant improvements in memory performance that also related to growth of memory areas in the brain.
Eat healthy: people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet with brain-boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, fatty fish, cheese, plant sources of proteins are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia. Try to make half your plate vegetables, a quarter of your plate proteins and the other quarter would be whole grains.
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- Sleep tight: poor or inadequate sleep can seriously damage your health. It is associated with vascular risk factors, high blood pressure and weight gain. Brains need to clean up neurons and synapses to function properly. Have you ever noticed? When you don’t get quality sleep, your brain health and your physical health are really impacted.
- Be more mindful: if you suffer from anxiety and stress, why not taking some yoga or meditation classes? Mindfulness practice can help reduce the risk of worsening vascular health.
- Watch your blood pressure: it’s recommended to check your blood pressure twice a year.
Get mental stimulation every day: social activities, reading, attending a cooking class can help you starve off the development of memory loss and associated depression with aging. Brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells!
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A healthy lifestyle can help you prevent risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If you already have one or more of these risk factors, it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that can reverse the conditions and help improve your brain health to live longer.
What about you? What are your tips to maintain your brain healthy? Tell us in the comments!