Experts: Make sure your cognitive health stays good

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cognition is a combination of mental processes that includes the ability to learn new things, intuition, judgment, language and remembering. A person’s cognitive health can decrease as a result of health problems dealing with heart and blood vessels. It is important to take proactive steps for heart health to help protect your brain’s ability.

The lack of cognitive health ranges from a mild cognitive decline to dementia. All declines can have implications for your health and well-being. Those who experience cognitive decline may be unable to take care of themselves or complete activates of daily living, such as meal preparation and money management.

The brain consists of 13 to 19 billion brain cells that require a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients. Health problems that interrupt the nutrients getting to the brain may damage or kill brain cells. Some of these health problems include hypertension, high cholesterol, and high homocysteine levels. When a person has untreated or unrecognized high blood pressure between the ages of 40 and 65, he is at risk for losing intellectual function later in life.

High blood pressure damages the brain through at least three ways:

1. Damaging the heart that pumps blood to the brain.

2. Damaging blood vessels in the brain.

3. Producing bleeding in the brain.

The risk for brain damage produced by chronic or severe high blood pressure can be reduced by taking the high blood pressure medicines as directed, staying on a healthy diet (Dash diet) and exercising.

Alcohol is highly addictive when consumed in large quantities over many years. The hazards of heavy alcohol consumption are well known and include increased risk of liver cirrhosis, hypertension and cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract, injury, violence and death. When considering cognitive health, it must be remembered that alcohol can damage your brain and kill brain cells. Alcohol-induced dementia is one of the five most common causes of intellectual loss in the older person. Any person with memory difficulty over the age of 65 should not drink alcohol. Alcohol worsens confusion in the older person, even those who do not suffer from dementia.

Studies indicate that people who exercise on a regular basis throughout life may reduce their risk of developing cognitive health problems with aging. Regular exercise also improves the health of your heart and blood vessels in the brain.

Regular brain exercise may strengthen your brain against memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. Life-long learning and new mental challenges are good for your brain. Accept new intellectual challenges, such as learning to use a computer or studying a new language.

Tips for Cognitive Health

Eat a healthy diet. Diets that provide sensible amounts of fish, fresh vegetables and fruits are preferred over diets that include multiple servings of meats and fried foods.


Control your medicine as directed.

Take your medicine as directed.

If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation-defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.