Illnesses like stroke and dementia can be caused by plaque buildup in the blood vessels leading to the brain. When this happens, it may affect the blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

The buildup of plaque happens over time and is caused by conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, all of which can affect brain function and can start to impact the brain in early childhood. Having a healthy lifestyle throughout your life may prove to be protective. Even if you didn’t have a healthy childhood, there are still benefits to getting serious about your health and fitness later in life. 

Following these simple steps, recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA), will help you to sustain a healthy brain — one that can maintain attention, receive and recognize information, learn and remember, communicate, solve problems, make decisions and remain mobile. Even if you already have plaque buildup in your arteries, taking these actions may aid in slowing or preventing the development of disease.

Steps for a healthy brain:

  1. Do not smoke.

  2. Be physically active at least 30 minutes per day or at least 150 minutes per week. Be sure to receive approval from your doctor to exercise. 

  3. Eat in moderation, and eat fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, mono- and unsaturated fats, fish and legumes.

  4. Obtain an adequate amount of sleep. 

  5. Be socially active.

  6. Work with your doctor to maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels according to AHA recommendations.

Prevention and control of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood glucose, along with a healthy lifestyle, may be important for the health and preservation of your brain.

As many Americans are living longer, adding life to your years by positioning yourself for successful brain health may help you to live far into your golden years without cognitive or physical impairment.