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START THE WEEK OFF RIGHT: Finding brain-healthy foods

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits not only contributes to your physical well-being but is also good for your brain. It’s never too early to start living a brain-healthy lifestyle so follow these tips to improve cognitive health as you age.

1. True or False: Things you do for heart health may help reduce some risks to your brain.

TRUE! It’s said that a heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet. Think Mediterranean eating patterns with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and extra virgin olive oil. By eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing sodium and added sugars, you’ll be working to keep your cholesterol in check as well as your blood pressure. The heart and brain blood vessels are so closely linked that conditions, like high blood pressure, can affect both organs.

2. True or False: If you haven’t exercised in years, it’s not safe to do so.

False! It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you exercised. Start with an activity that doesn’t strain your body. And consult with your doctor about the type and amount right for you.

Regular physical activity may reduce risks of diabetes, heart disease, depression and stroke, prevent falls and improve connections among brain cells.

Get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Move about 30 minutes on most days. If you’re able, walking is a great place to start.

3. True or False: There’s nothing you can do to reduce medicine-related problems.

False! While medicines can help you treat your health conditions, some can create problems for your brain. Whether you’re taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, talk with your doctor if you notice changes in your cognitive function.

While you may not have control over all of your risk factors — like genetics — you do have control over many others like the foods you choose, your level of activity and how well you’re managing other health conditions.

Check out these brainy resources:

• Mind Your Risks- National Institute of Health

• Illinois Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association- Virtual Learning (webinars & programs by phone)

• Brain Health and Challenge Apps- from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas

• The Dana Foundation- brain games and puzzles for all ages

California Avocado Super Summer Wrap

1 ripe avocado, seeded, peeled, and cubed

½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

¼ cup red onion, chopped

12 oz. cooked chicken breast, cubed

4 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

Using a fork or potato masher, mash half the avocado cubes with yogurt and lime juice in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the avocado cubes, blueberries, carrots, and cooked chicken cubes; mix gently. Top each tortilla with ¼ of filling mixture and ¼ of arugula. Roll and tuck in ends. Slice in half diagonally, securing with toothpicks, if needed.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 389 calories, 13 grams fat, 370 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 35 grams protein

Source: What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Kristin Bogdonas is the nutrition & wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties. To contact her about health and wellness programs, call 309-756-9978.

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