The Best Way to Protect Your Memory? Follow an Overall Wellness Plan!

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Brain Health, Memory Fitness

Senior man smiling

March is Brain Awareness Month.

We read a lot about the "mind-body connection" these days. Most of us realize that the way we think about things can influence the health of our entire bodies. But it's important to know that this works both ways: our overall wellness affects the health of our brains.

We used to think of "the mind" in an abstract way, as something somehow separate from our bodies. But new imaging techniques now allow researchers to observe brain function in ways that would have seemed like science fiction only a few years ago. Some scientists have described these images as "portraits of the formation of thoughts." And what they see confirms again and again that brain health is closely interrelated with whole body health.

Recent studies link brain health with…

Heart disease. We've long known that controlling our weight, blood pressure and cholesterol benefits the heart. Now, it is more clear than ever that the lifestyle choices we make for cardiac wellness also benefit our brains. According to a recent analysis by the American Heart Association, "Preserving a healthy blood vessel wall is important in preventing cognitive impairment." This study also helps explain why exercise is so beneficial to brain health.

Diabetes. The American Academy of Neurology released a study showing that people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes appear to be at higher risk of developing the plaques and tangles in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. Said study author Kensuke Sasaki, MD, "It's possible that by controlling or preventing diabetes, we might also be helping to prevent Alzheimer's disease."

Dental problems. A study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions showed that study participants who had many of their natural teeth were less likely to have memory loss. Principal investigator Dr. Nozomi Okamoto suggests, "Infections in the gums that can lead to tooth loss may release inflammatory substances which in turn will enhance the brain inflammation that…hastens memory loss."

Hearing loss. A 2011 study from Johns Hopkins published in the Archives of Neurology reports that older adults with moderate to severe hearing loss may be at higher risk of developing dementia. While the connection is not well understood, the authors suggest that hearing loss may result in "exhaustion of cognitive reserve," and also leads to social isolation, which is another risk factor. The researchers emphasize that hearing loss is often preventable, and that current technology can help seniors improve their hearing.
These are just a few of the studies that demonstrate the importance of following our healthcare provider's advice to best manage health conditions. We know more than ever before that healthy aging lifestyle choices serve double duty: when we improve our diet, add more exercise to our routine, give up smoking, reduce stress, and manage any health conditions we have, we benefit not only our bodies but also our minds.

Learn More About Brain Health

The Alzheimer's Association offers updates and information about the connection between brain health and other conditions. See "Maintain Your Brain" to learn more.

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