Brain Health & The Heart

By Krista L. Lanctôt, PhD

As a researcher in brain health, I often spend dinner parties answering the question, “What can I do to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease?” The major risk factor is age, and well, we all have some of that and hope to have more. But to keep your brain as healthy as possible, remember that what is good for the heart is good for the head.

Overall heath gained by regular exercise, managing risk factors like blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain, not smoking and aiming for a healthy diet, can not only help promote a healthy heart, but also delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

You will be glad to know that one example of a healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet, includes red wine in moderation. Rose Reisman also has some great recommendations (May 5, 2013). Special activities to promote brain health include keeping mentally fit, avoiding head injury and remaining socially active.

The second question most frequently asked, once we all have red wine in our hands, is in  distinguishing between normal aging and something more serious. We all may have lapses in attention and put the milk in the cupboard, or notice occasional word-finding difficulties. Knowing that the milk doesn’t really go there, and being able to eventually remember that word are good signs. It’s a more serious problem when you forget how to do something you have done many times before, get lost going to a familiar location, or have difficulties sequencing steps like following a recipe or making household repairs.

When memory problems interfere with your daily living, then they are problematic. So sign up for life-long learning, keep physically healthy, keep in touch with your friends and make some new ones.  Also know this: scientists around the world are working hard to find ways to avoid and treat Alzheimer’s. We’re making strides and the future is bright.




Krista L. Lanctôt, PhD is Senior Scientist for the Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto.



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