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  • Writer's pictureKathy Goul, K-State Research & Extension Service

Healthy Living for Your Brain & Body

Updated: 5 days ago

K-State Research & Extension News for March 2024

Submitted by Kathy Goul, Family & Consumer Science Agent

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.  While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are some healthy behaviors that we can adopt to lower our risk for dementia.  Science tells us that many factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke increase the risk of dementia, such as hypertension, diabetes and midlife obesity. 

Seven key areas have been identified to move us toward healthy living for our brain and body.  Each plays an important role in our overall health. 

Get quality sleep

Sleep is essential for overall health and well-being.  It affects our ability to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar.  To get quality sleep consider what kind of environment helps you sleep and changes you can make that would create a more peaceful sleep setting.  Turning off screens before bedtime, adjusting room temperature and the amount of light in the room can help.

Be smoke-free

Smoking has a direct impact on the health of your brain.  Studies have found that smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline and may increase the risk of dementia.  Quitting smoking may reduce a person’s chance of developing cognitive decline back down to the level of non-smokers.  Talk with your doctor or another health care professional.  Look for a smoking cessation program or find a strategy that works for you.

Take care of your mental health

It’s important to prioritize yourself.  Stress, anxiety and depression affect the health of our brain.  Take time each day to focus on something you enjoy such as reading a book or going for a walk.  If necessary, make an “appointment” with yourself to ensure you will have time set aside for self-care each day.

Get moving

Physical activity can improve your brain health.  Science tells us that consistent cardiovascular activity will reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may directly benefit brain cells and reduce other risk factors.  Any increase in movement can have an impact on overall health.  Start small, short amounts of physical activity add up.  Recommended guidelines for physical activity include 30 minutes of moderate cardio activity, such as brisk walking, five days a week.

Eat healthy

Nutritious food is fuel for the brain.  Eating a balanced diet may reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and diabetes.  Key elements include eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and poultry.  Choosing healthier fats and limiting sugar and salt are also key components of balanced nutrition.  Consider what healthy foods you can swap in to your current dishes.  For example, cook with olive oil vs. butter.  Consider adding fresh vegetables, such as zucchini and mushrooms, to your favorite pasta.  Gradual changes will lead to success. 

Challenge your brain

Keeping your mind active forms new connections among brain cells and encourages blood flow to the brain.  Learn a new hobby, try a new cooking technique or take a class at a local community center to learn a new skill.

Stay connected

Social engagement is associated with living longer with few disabilities, and may support brain health.  In addition, those who feel well-connected tend to make healthier choices in other areas of life.  Volunteer for a cause that is important to you or participate in events in your community.  Visit with friends and family in-person, via telephone, video chats or social media. 

It’s never too late to incorporate healthy habits into our lives.  People of all ages can benefit from adding in more healthy behaviors.  Small steps make a difference!  Start today by working to improve in one area and then continue to move forward. 

K-State Research & Extension offers a variety of programs throughout our district to support healthy lifestyles.  We have scheduled a number of Alzheimer’s programs this year, as well as physical activity classes that are recommended for adults age 50+ or individuals who are not currently active. 

In addition, we have a variety of programs and materials available that focus on healthy foods & nutrition.  Visit our website at, follow us on Facebook at Marais des Cygnes District K-State Research & Extension or give the office a call at 913-294-4306 to find a program near you.

Source:  Alzheimer’s Association

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