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      How to maintain your brain health

      One person every 70 seconds is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Although doctors are seeing growing numbers of folks being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, they attribute the growing numbers to folks growing older. In fact age is the largest risk factor for dementia of any kind.

      But contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer's and dementia isn't just genetic, it also has to do with how you live. The brain is tied intimately to how you take care of the rest of your body.

      Use it or lose it. That's the phrase to sum up how to keep up on your mental and physical health. Just like a muscle in the body, if your brain isn't challenged or exerted, it gets weaker. That's the word from Neurologist Dr. Linda Johnson with Quincy Medical Group.

      Dr. Linda Johnson said, "It's really important for people to use their brain power in reading, puzzles, games, things that challenge you. You're keeping pathways open and keeping them in practice and you do better."

      Amy Voss with the Alzheimer's Association said, "That's because without mental challenges, nerve connections in the brain aren't being made."

      Voss says you shouldn't stop at strategy games, crosswords and word searches to exercise mental muscle. Keeping a good social life as you get older can also do wonders for staying active.

      Voss said, "A lot of times with Alzheimer ' s, people want to isolate themselves and they're afraid to go out in public and tend to withdraw from things.That can lead to depression. But we know if you're out and socializing it will help."

      But while exercise for the brain is important, a healthy and vibrant mind requires a healthy lifestyle. That means exercise and eating right. The rule of thumb is this: What's good for the heart is good for your head. That's because your brain relies on the heart and cardiovascular system to keep blood flowing.

      Dr. Johnson said, "Every tissue has to have blood flow to get oxygen. The brain is exquisitely sensitive to levels of oxygen. In order to keep the brain healthy, we need to keep blood vessels healthy that are feeding oxygen to brain cells."

      Do that by controlling risk factors for your heart and cardiovascular system, which pumps blood to your brain.

      Maintain a healthy blood pressure by eating right and taking your prescribed medications. Don't smoke. Cigarettes and cigars rapidly age your arteries. And don't drink excessively. That's because it raises blood pressure and closes the small arteries in your brain, which damages it.

      Eat right. Dr. Johnson says foods high in Vitamin B and Omega 3 Fatty acids help keep nerve cells healthy.

      The Alzheimer ' s Association recommends a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on natural vitamins and fats found in fish, fruits and vegetables and nuts.

      Click here for more information on risk factors and prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.