In recognition of Heart Month this February, the Cognitive Therapeutics team is raising awareness around the link between high blood pressure and an increased risk of dementia and stroke. Worldwide, there are 970 million people living with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The World Health Organization estimates that hypertension is one of the leading causes of premature death as it is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In addition, a growing body of scientific literature indicates that hypertension may also be linked to cognitive decline and dementia. Most importantly, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable; controlling risk factors for hypertension today may contribute to a healthier brain in the future.
Here are 3 tips we recommend to controlling or preventing high blood pressure:
- Eat a Mediterranean diet. Commonly known for its cardiovascular and brain health benefits, a Mediterranean diet is effective in delaying cognitive decline and regulating blood pressure. The diet consists of fruits, vegetables, beans, unrefined grains and fish along with a moderate consumption of wine. The key to reducing blood pressure is to eat a balanced, nutritional diet and to minimize salt intake, alcohol and tobacco usage.
- Exercise. Physical activity has been shown to improve brain health, boost mood and reduce blood pressure. Exercising promotes blood flow to the brain and heart, which increases the amount of oxygen flowing to these vital organs. We recommend 10-20 minutes of light physical activity daily.
- Get regular check-ups. It is important to be aware of your current blood pressure by getting regular check-ups with your primary physician, who will be able to help you identify risk factors and work with you to reduce them. If you have already received a diagnosis of hypertension, a physician can suggest lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure or prescribe pharmaceutical solutions, if necessary.
Blood pressure may increase as a result of aging but leading a proactive, heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce that risk. By maintaining weight, eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity and attending regular check-ups, you will be able to manage your blood pressure and greatly reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.
In recognition of Heart Month, Home Care Assistance’s Patient Guides for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Post-Stroke Care are available. Please submit the information request form below and we will email or mail a copy of the guide to you.
Researchers from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom have found that targeting and reducing inflammation in the brain can reduce memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease. This research adds to growing evidence that suppressing inflammation in the brain may lead to preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s disease.
Inflammation in the brain is caused by a build-up of microglia cells, which are cells that provide the main form and first line of immune defense. The proliferation of microglia cells has also been found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, post-mortem, and is a key indicator of several neurocognitive disorders. Individuals with Alzheimer’s also had an increased regulation of the CSF1R gene that correlated with the severity of the disease.
In order to reduce this inflammation, the research team needed to block the production of microglia cells. To do so, they administered drugs that block the CSF1R receptor, which is responsible for the increase in microglia cells in the brain, to mice. Results showed that the mice given the CSF1R-blocking drug had fewer memory and behavioral problems. The drug also proved beneficial in preventing the loss of communication between nerve cells in the brain, a common symptom in individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Described as encouraging by the research community, these results prove that a CSF1R treatment could be a potential therapy option for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Further studies will be needed to verify the long-term effectiveness of the drug in humans.
In the meantime, the Cognitive Therapeutics Team encourages non-pharmacological approaches to promote an active and healthy brain-centered lifestyle. We encourage 15 to 20 minutes of physical activity per day, a balanced diet, social interaction and mental engagement to promote cognitive health and enhance quality of life!
As we enter January, driving conditions tend to be more dangerous due to rainy or snowy roads. For seniors, age-related declines in vision, mobility and reaction time can limit driving abilities, making it even more difficult to drive safely on slippery roads. To this end, we have put together 6 tips for safe driving that are important for your safety and that of others.
Follow these 6 tips to ensure your safe driving abilities!
- Get regular health check-ups. Monitor changes in vision, hearing and mobility by getting regular medical check-ups. If your primary physician or optometrist notices changes, be proactive by following their recommended advice for glasses, hearing aids or other support devices. It is also important to manage any chronic conditions such as diabetes and be aware of how many medications you are taking as they may affect your driving abilities.
- Maintain your mobility. Adopt a fitness regimen to ensure your physical ability to drive. One of the most common mistakes older adults make is forgetting to check blind spots, so practice exercises that strengthen range of motion in your neck so that you are comfortable turning your head. We also recommend practicing yoga or trying back-strengthening exercises so that you are able to endure sitting while driving, though it may be best to avoid lengthy car rides.
- Keep your car in good working condition. Regular services, tune-ups and oil changes will ensure your car stays in tip-top shape. In addition, make sure that windshields, mirrors and headlights are clean and that the brightness on the dashboard’s instrument panel is turned all the way up to increase visibility when driving at night.
- Plan ahead. Avoid driving in dangerous weather conditions or during the evening hours when it is dark outside. These conditions may impair visibility and increase the chances of unforeseen obstacles and delays such as accidents, road closures or traffic. We also recommend looking up where you are going and planning your route ahead of time so that you won’t need to use GPS devices or look at maps while you are driving.
- Take a refresher course. Organizations like AAA believe that driving is a skill that should be continually improved and offer driver refresher courses to the public. These courses help bring drivers up-to-speed on the latest advancements in vehicle technology and how they affect your driving as well as the incentive of potential discounts on insurance premiums.
- Know your limitations. Be aware of your limitations and avoid any situations that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. For instance, if your hands hurt when turning the wheel, try using a wheel cover that is softer and can be easily gripped. By knowing your limitations, you can be proactive about reducing your risk factors to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.
We hope that by knowing your limitations and following these 6 tips, you will be able to drive safely and comfortably. However, it is important to recognize when it is time to turn in the keys, which can be a difficult but courageous decision. To learn about the benefits of turning in the keys, read our blog “Keeping Seniors Safe Behind the Wheel”. In support of your decision, Home Care Assistance offers professional caregivers to assist with transportation needs, ensuring both your independence and safety.