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There’s a reason we’re seeing Alzheimer’s in the news more and more – sadly, it has become more prevalant. Five million Americans suffer from this devastating brain illness, to say nothing of the suffering of their loved ones.
So, naturally, we’re all on the look out for ways to protect ourselves against this beast. At the same time, we’re always looking for ways to improve our overall health, including the health of our all-important heart. Fortunately, many of the things that are beneficial to one part of our bodies are also beneficial to the other parts. This is never more true than when it comes to the brain and the heart. In fact, the heart actually plays a very big role in keeping the brain healthy.
We know the things we should do to keep our heart strong: Avoid smoking, get regular exercise, and eat a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. These steps improve the health of blood vessels leading to the heart – so, in turn, they improve our heart’s health. What we don’t realize (until now, of course!), is that they also improve the health of blood vessels to the brain – so, in turn, they improve our brain’s health.
We should all start doing the following to protect and strengthen our hearts AND minds:
1. No Smoking! If you smoke, stop. Find a way. Make a way. This should be the year you do the smartest thing possible for your health. It’s absolutely critical for your heart and your brain.
2. Exercise more. Find ways to become more active!
- Buy an exercise dvd or even just an exercise mat. Wear comfortable clothes around the house, then you’ll be more apt to work out on or with your new fitness tools.
- If at all possible, buy a treadmill or exercise bike. Place it right in front of your television and work out while watching your favorite show. 30 minutes will pass quickly and you can feel good knowing that you got your work out in for the day!
- Park a little further from the door each time you go to the store. Once you’re inside, take the longest route possible to what you came for. Then take the longest route possible to the check out. It may not seem like much at the time, but all the steps add up, and your brain, heart, and overall health will thank you for it.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables! I think we’ve all seen those words so often that we’ve become almost immune to them. Think about it, we started hearing about the dynamic duo before we were even old enough to read. “Eat your fruits and vegetables…. Don’t eat so much of that! Eat your fruits and vegetables..” To children, they can become the enemy pretty fast. On one hand there’s Ice Cream sandwiches, Sweethearts, and hot dogs – while on the other there’s fruit cocktail, lima beans, and carrots. Once we were able to read, we read about fruits and vegetables in health class every semester – they were always there, taking their rightful place in the food pyramid, in all of their colorful glory.
Today? They’re still everywhere we look. The articles about losing weight tell us to eat more fruits and vegetables. The articles about heart health extol their virtues. And now, even information about keeping our mind’s healthy tells us that we should eat more of these wonder foods.
The thing is….we really should! The nutrients and vitamins our bodies and minds need are right there in nature’s finest. We can’t allow our eyes to just glaze over when we read the words – and we can’t say, ‘”I had mashed potatoes for supper last night and fries for lunch…I’m doing okay.” Wrong! First of all, if the only way you can claim to get your fruits and vegetables is through the almighty potato, you need to rework your diet entirely. And I won’t even get into the fries…
Start finding ways to get more vegetables and more fruits into your day. Think of it as a color’s game, see how many different colors you can work into a meal. It won’t take long to see that those white potatoes don’t provide a great deal of color or variety.
Here are a few ideas from a fruit and vegetable fanatic:
- Keep fruit on hand and in a central location. You’ll find yourself grabbing an apple on the way out the door or a pear as you head to the sofa. I love to take a bowl of grapes with me to the bath. My inner Cleopatra is totally into that sort of thing.
- Buy fruit juice. Apple juice is about as yummy as anything you can pour into a cup…anything that doesn’t answer to the name of coffee, that is.
- Make your own fruit cocktail with grapes, strawberries, orange wedges, pineapples, blackberries, etc.
- Add fruit to Vanilla Yogurt and top it all off with granola. It’s dessert-quality delicious, even kids will think so.
- Buy a new Vegetables only cookbook and experiment. Read my post about the book Being Vegetarian – you’ll see just how fun and creative Vegetables can be.
- Add bananas to peanut butter sandwiches – thank you, thank you, very much. Long live the King’s sandwich of choice.
- Look up great Smoothies recipes and have fun whipping up different varieties.
Once you start experimenting with ways to work more exercise and good food into your life – you’ll have so much fun AND feel so much better, you’ll never want to stop. The trick is to start – and there’s no time like NOW!
Make each moment count double,