What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain. Full Stop.
In a stunning and unprecedented public announcement, on May 14th, 2019, the World Health Organization issued a global call to action by publishing a list of specific guidelines to reduce the risk of dementia. In fact, it’s all contained within the first paragraph of their press release: “People can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.”
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rang the alarm in simple but urgent terms: “In the next 30 years,” he said, “the number of people with dementia is expected to triple. We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia. The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirm what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain.”
In other words, dementia––even with a genetic predisposition––is not an inevitability. It is within all of our powers to do our best to forestall its onset by seeing the disease as multifactorial. These new guidelines, issued forth by the world’s leading global health organization, validate everything we at Neurotrack believe and are working hard to deliver: the need for multi-domain interventions earlier in life.
Staying physically active is a critical part of brain health. Yes, it’s good to eat a Mediterranean diet, but it’s even better to do so after a brisk walk, followed by a 2-minute plank, and maybe even a few moments of silent meditation to lower your blood pressure. But please hold off on the sugary, processed dessert; the scotch; and the cigarette after. Sure, you can and even should, have a glass of wine now and then, but if you over-consume to the point of inebriation, that’s not good for your brain either.
We are pleased to see the World Health Organization take a stand on lifestyle changes, including neuroprotective diets and exercise, as a means to risk reduction and prevention of some forms of dementia. The exponential growth of this disease, if we do nothing to forestall its onset, is no joke. There are currently 50 million people globally affected by dementia, with 10 million new cases every year. With the cost of caring for those in its grips estimated to rise to $2 trillion annually by 2030, these simple guidelines have become not just an important new tool in combating its scourge, but also the most urgent message out there.
It comes down to common sense: eat your greens, get exercise, have some berries for a snack instead of brownies, and treat your brain with the same respect you treat your heart. It’s not just about keeping your memories safe, though that’s important. It’s about keeping a large population of the world from descending into darkness.