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ISSUEWhat's good for your heart is good for your brain

PROTECT YOUR BRAINEspecially when pursuing sportPHOTO: REUTERS
PROTECT YOUR BRAINEspecially when pursuing sportPHOTO: REUTERS

Some simple precautions and activities can help keep your mind sharp and your brain healthy throughout your life, an expert says.

Genes and chance certainly play a role in memory loss, brain tumours, strokes and other brain disorders, says Keith L. Black, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.

But brain health isn't totally out of your control. There are ways to reduce your risks of both diseases and injury to the brain, Dr. Black says, including:

Wear a helmet when riding a bike or playing sports. That goes for both adults and kids. Learn the symptoms of concussion, and take head injuries seriously. What's good for your heart is good for your brain. The same things that can cause heart disease and heart attack — plaque build-up and arterial damage — can also cause strokes. Watching your cholesterol, controlling your blood pressure and exercising can benefit your brain as well as your heart.

Exercise your brain by doing puzzles and games, or activities you enjoy, such as reading, learning languages or knitting. Research suggests that staying mentally engaged as you age may help ward off some memory declines.

Eat a nutritious diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-quality protein.

Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.

Don't smoke.

Get adequate sleep.

Counter stress through relaxation, meditation or exercise.

Learn the symptoms of stroke and get help immediately if you suspect you're having one. Don't be lulled into believing you're too young to have a stroke. Twenty-five per cent of all strokes occur in people younger than 65 and even young adults and children can suffer a stroke. Getting rapid treatment can limit permanent impairment.

When using your cell phone, use the speaker function or a headset. While early studies have not found evidence that radio frequency waves from cell phones increase the risk of brain tumours, Dr. Black says, the effects may become evident over decades. It's best to be cautious.

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