A Healthy Heart Equals a Healthy Mind
If your usual diet consists of chips, cake, cookies, pie and soda as the five main food groups, you are most likely short-changing yourself when it comes to overall health and wellness. Sure, you may still be standing and breathing, but as the old adage goes, “You are what you eat.”
The foods you consume can help lower your risk for stroke and improve your overall health. If creating a brain-healthy diet is part of your resolution for 2017, then create a grocery list that includes fruits, vegetables, beans, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, whole-grain, high-fiber foods, lean meat and fish. By incorporating these into your diet on a regular basis, you are not only keeping your heart healthy, but also your brain.
How does this work? Well, there exists a strong connection between the heart and the brain, as these two organs are linked by arteries that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients.
Maintaining a healthy diet isn’t always easy, especially if you crave carbs or have an insatiable sweet tooth, but it is vitally important to your overall well-being. Adhering to a healthy diet reduces your risk for stroke by lowering the cholesterol that can ultimately create plaque build-up in your arteries. When plaque builds up and hardens in those arteries, the brain and heart are ultimately deprived of blood, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Further, eating foods within a healthy diet can aid in reducing your blood pressure, which in turn reduces the strain that is placed upon your blood vessels, resulting in harmful inflammation.
Fortunately, a change in your diet can reduce the chances of illness and help you to protect that ticker of yours and your noggin. While there are, as mentioned, a variety of healthy foods that will champion your cause here, three main foods stand out as winners in this category.
- Head for the sea: Research has indicated that by consuming just one or two four-ounce servings of fatty fish each week and cut your risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent. Lean towards salmon, mackerel, sardines or rainbow trout. The omega-3s found in fish help to reduce inflammation in the arterial walls, allowing for blood to easily flow to the brain.
- Raise your glass to good health: A glass of red wine contains polyphenols, which aid in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and also help to prevent blood clots. Resveratrol, one of those polyphenols, has also been shown to improved blood flow to the brain and reducing the chance of stroke.
- Eat more produce: Those who struggle with high blood pressure can find some relief by consuming fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. In a study of adults age 65+, those who ate roughly three servings of vegetables daily demonstrated 40 percent less mental decline on cognitive tests than those whose diet contained little to no vegetables. An added bonus: potassium, which is found in bananas, tomatoes, baked potatoes and artichokes, may mitigate the damage created by excess salt in our diets, which prevent artery walls from thickening, thus leading to lower blood pressure.
Even though it may take some time to adjust to a new diet (After all, shaking that mid-day chocolate bar habit can be a challenge!), over time you will notice that a brain and heart-healthy diet can result in weight loss and increased energy because it allows for a steadier supply of blood sugar throughout the course of the day. You may also find yourself craving less junk food because you have put your appetite-regulating hormones in charge now. Additionally, the omega-3s found in many of these healthy food options can improve focus and concentration, a great way to ward off depression.