February Is Heart Month: Share the Love for the Heart-Brain Connection

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to once again focus our thoughts on what is without doubt the brain’s favorite valentine, the heart.

Why does heart health matter so much to our intellectual wellness? The relationship between cardiovascular function and our brain health is well established. Numerous studies have shown over and again that the same factors known to impact cardiac health, such as physical activity, weight and stress, also play a significant role in determining dementia risk. The robustness of this relationship is strong and clear, and many of us know that what is good for our heart is good for our brain as well.

Want to engage in the many health-boosting activities that benefit both heart and brain? Here are 3 heart – and brain – warming activities you can use to share the love:

“Move to Your Heart’s Desire” Party. Physical activity is without a doubt one of the very best things we can do for both our hearts and our brains. Regular physical activity has been associated with sharper thinking and lowered risk for serious memory disorders, as well as better brain physiology, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and combatting emotional distress.  Why not lead your co-workers or create an evening family activity with a fun way to get their hearts and minds pumping?  Have folks stand in a circle. Begin by creating a large body movement (i.e., pumping your fists above your head in a victory move, swinging your arms in a large circle, swishing your hips back and forth, a pantomimed golf swing, cha-cha stepping into the circle and back, etc.) that you couple with a nonsense sound (i.e., “boom-boom,” “whish,” “cha-cha-cha”). Moving clockwise, have the person next to you repeat your moves and sounds, and then add their own. Keep moving around the circle, with each person repeating the moves and sounds of the classmate right before them and then adding their own. As the class becomes more comfortable with the activity, have everyone go a bit faster. You might want to add some music to move along with to really keep the “party” going. Need to keep it simple? Have everyone in the group simply repeat the movement and sound that each person comes up with, one at a time.

Act on Those Passions. Numerous studies have shown that staying intellectually engaged can reduce our dementia risk, in some cases by as much as 63%. Often changes in role such as retirement, relocation or health challenges can limit the degree to which we find ourselves exercising our minds. Have your co-workers, family or friends talk about something they are passionate about – it might be politics, cooking, childrearing advice or their favorite hobby. Next, have them formulate some ideas on what they can do to engage more fully with their passions. It might be organizing a speaker, teaching a class themselves, writing an article, or even shooting a short video to share on YouTube.  Each participant might want to write out at least three steps they will take to fulfill their “Passion Plan.”

Pen a Heartfelt Wish. Nothing warms our hearts more that sharing our love or support with others.  But did you know that giving back or having a sense of purpose, not to mention being social, have all been linked to a reduced risk for memory loss? Here’s an activity that spreads the love in a social and community-building way. Invite your co-workers or family and friends to write anonymous “I wish for you” letters to share with others. These letters should be very general in tone, and include a kind or heartfelt positive wish or statement of support, such as “I wish for you a day filled with smiles” or “Here’s wishing you many simple pleasures today.” Address the envelopes to “The Person Who Finds This.” After everyone is done, they can be left in common areas of the office or home for folks to find by chance. For more ideas similar to this, visit www.moreloveletters.com, which inspired this activity.

This information was adapted, by permission, from DR. CYNTHIA GREEN’S February NewsletterDr. Green is one of America’s foremost memory fitness and brain health experts and available for speeches for your upccoming event.  Contact Jo Cavender 503-345-9164 ext 1 or by email jo@SpeakersOnHealthcare.com