Concerns about memory problems are common in older adults and their family caregivers. There are lots of suggestions about how seniors can protect brain health, including eating a healthy diet, exercising, and keeping the brain active. A new study suggests that one way to protect the brain is to also protect the heart.
The Brain and Heart Study
Scientists have known for a while that the health of the brain is linked to heart health. This latest study provides still more evidence to suggest that heart problems can also lead to memory problems. The study took place in the United Kingdom and involved 8,000 people who were all over the age of 49. Researchers followed their health for 15 years. At the beginning of the study, the participants did not have evidence of heart or brain problems.
During the study period, around 6 percent of the participants developed heart problems. The scientists discovered that all of the people who had heart problems also experienced quicker decline of mental function. Those who had angina (chest pain) performed poorly on tests that looked at their ability to accurately tell the current day of the week, the date, or the time. People who had suffered a heart attack had worsened verbal memory and more trouble with speaking fluently. Their cognitive decline is generally worse as a whole.
Ways to Achieve Better Heart Health
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to protect your aging relative’s heart health.
Some things that can improve heart health are:
Follow a Heart Healthy Diet:A heart healthy diet is one that is plentiful in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It limits unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats, substituting healthy ones instead. This includes eating lean proteins. The diet is low in sodium and uses proper portion sizes.
Sleep Well: Not sleeping enough can be harmful to heart health. In one study involving 3,000 people, those who slept 6 hours per night were at double the risk of having a heart attack or stroke than were people who slept 8 hours each night.
Control Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease. Have your aging relative’s checked and follow the doctor’s advice for keeping them under control.
Exercise: Regular exercise makes the heart stronger and helps to manage weight.
If your aging relative is at risk for heart disease, home care services can help them to live a more a heart healthy lifestyle. Home care services providers can prepare meals that follow heart healthy guidelines. Home care services providers can also remind seniors to take medications for blood pressure and cholesterol. Finally, a home care services provider can assist seniors in being more physically active by encouraging them to move more at home, go for walks, or by driving them to an exercise class.