April 18, 2017
Controlling Risk Factors for Brain Disease
We know advanced age and family history can increase the risk of dementia but so do other factors such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Taking control of these medical conditions is a key pillar of brain health.
Brain health scientists have known for a long time that people with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing dementia. A recent large study underscores just how important diabetes is for developing dementia. In this study, the researchers found that diabetes was the main health risk factor, even more important than high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Keep your blood sugar in control by:
- Avoiding white, sugar, white flour and hydrogenated fats
- Eating more fiber and controlling portion size
High blood pressure and brain health are closely connected. The blood vessels that supply the brain are delicate. Overtime, high blood pressure can damage these vessels leading to small hemorrhages (or ruptures) and other structural changes in the brain. This damage can lead to changes in thinking or memory.
What can you do? Exercise, weight loss and a healthy diet are ways to reduce to your blood pressure naturally. Try following the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to reduce your sodium intake. See your medical provider for more guidance on lowering blood pressure.
High cholesterol is also linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. A recent study further investigated the use of statin drugs (drugs used to lower lipids that contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease) and their effect on Alzheimer’s disease. This study found the use of these drugs was of benefit to Alzheimer’s patients, especially those who carried the ApoE4 gene – the gene associated with a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Consult with your medical provider to check your cholesterol
- Take cholesterol-lowering medications when prescribed
Keeping control of medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, combined with exercise, the Mediterranean diet, staying social, learning and adequate sleep, will help your brain stay healthy for years to come.
Learn more about controlling medical risk factors, calculate your body mass index (BMI) and check to see if you can improve your brain health index (BHI) by visiting HealthyBrains.org.