Across the country we are enjoying a cooler and later summer this year. Now in late June, conditions are perfect to get out and enjoy the outdoors before the summer heat sets in!
Being a cyclist, my favourite part of summer is being able to ride my bike around the city. It gives me an opportunity to
- check out what’s going on in the different neighbourhoods
- get a bit of exercise
- save on car/transit costs and
- use a mode of transportation that is good for the environment!
And what I see is truly fantastic! Any given evening, people are out biking, walking, picnicking, dancing, doing yoga, playing all kinds of sports and just getting out and having a good time.
In addition to having fun and enjoying the weather, getting out and doing something also has a hidden benefit – it reduces your risk of having a stroke. And since June is Stroke Awareness Month, what better time to do it!
A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is blocked or a blood vessel bleeds, preventing the blood from flowing properly. When this happens, the blood can’t get oxygen to the brain, and it causes brain cells to die. Scary stuff! Strokes can be small or large, and the difficulties that can occur depend on what part of the brain is affected. It can affect how you walk or speak, or cause weakness in an arm or a leg. Strokes are also cumulative, which means each stroke you have can be more debilitating.
Stroke is also a common cause of vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
So get out and enjoy the weather! Even a daily 30-minute walk will help lower your risk of stroke.
I’ve been thinking lately that no one is immune to dementia. In the past few weeks we lost two major political figures to the condition. Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia only 2 years earlier. Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, died of a stroke last week following a lengthy struggle with vascular dementia.
Both were extremely divisive figures. When news of Thatcher’s passing hit the internet, she was simultaneously lauded as England’s savior, as well as a few… less savoury names. Still, she was the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and the only female one.
When Klein took office in 1992, Alberta faced a $23-billion deficit. Shockingly, he balanced the budget within 3 years. He brought personality to Alberta’s politics, and was admired for his candour, even when he was perhaps a little too honest.
But regardless of whether you agree with their particular brand of politics, we cannot deny that even an Iron Lady was not immune to dementia. And we couldn’t have expected that Klein, never known to back down from a verbal tussle, would find himself unable to speak.
What we can take away is that their deaths have shined another light on diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, as well as vascular dementia. The more that we talk openly about dementia (and our experiences with it), the more we can reduce the fear and stigma.
And none of us can ever say with certainty, “I’ll never have dementia,”. So it’s important to understand what it is, and the risk factors that are involved. Eating well, regular exercise and keeping stress levels down are just a few ways to lead a brain healthy lifestyle, which is your best chance at reducing risk.
February is Heart Month. But did you know that heart health is directly related to brain health? There is an overwhelming amount of information alerting us to the risks of heart disease and stroke. These conditions can result in vascular dementia (VaD), the second leading form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.