10 Ways to Say, ‘I Love You, Brainy Valentine’

A physical will include a blood-pressure check. High blood pressure, or hypertension, in midlife is a risk factor for dementia.

The day is here, and whether you have found the perfect card, have forgotten to buy flowers, or have been called in to work the night shift, you can still come through with a timeless gift of caring for your brainy Valentine. Here are 10 gift ideas from our experts on brain health at the UC Neuroscience Institute. Give them today or in the weeks and months to come.

1. Get your loved one to the doctor. If he has not had a physical recently, schedule one and offer to accompany him and take him to breakfast or lunch afterward. Even young people should have regular physicals as a general rule. No matter how old you are, your best defense against stroke is seeing a doctor who can help you modify any risk factors you might have with medication, a wellness program that stresses exercises and nutrition, or a smoking cessation program.
Brett Kissela, MD, MS
Professor and Albert Barnes Voorheis Chair
Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine
UC Comprehensive Stroke Center

2. Buy her blueberries. A preliminary study by UC researchers, based on a sample of nine older adults with early memory changes, found that daily consumption of blueberries helped improve memory. Blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds, most prominently anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as other benefits for brain function.
Robert Krikorian, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
UC Mood Disorders Center

3. Take your loved one for a power walk. Exercise is the best way to improve the brain and the heart.
John M. Tew, Jr., MD
Professor of Neurosurgery, Radiology and Surgery
Neurosurgeon, UC Brain Tumor Center

4. Never let your loved one ride in your car without buckling his or her seat belt.
Norberto Andaluz, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
Medical Director, UC Neurotrauma Center

5. Know the signs of stroke. Knowledge that a stroke is occurring or has occurred is critical, because medication must be administered within 4 ½  hours of the onset of symptoms.  Because an individual who is having a stroke may be incapacitated or unaware that a stroke is occurring, assistance from a loved one or bystander may have lifesaving value. To simplify recognition of a stroke’s symptoms, the UC Stroke Team developed the mnemonic FAST:

F: Facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side
A: Arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side
S: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
T: Time to call 911

Dawn Kleindorfer, MD
Professor of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine
Co-Medical Director, UC Comprehensive Stroke Center

6. If you’re taking in a movie or a show, do your loved one a favor by parking a little farther from where you need to be and using the stairs if you can. Thus far, exercise is the only proven disease-modifying (neuroprotective) intervention in Parkinson’s disease and cannot be made into a pill. A bit of exercise a day is love given to the brain.
Alberto Espay, MD, MSc
Associate Professor and Research Director
Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders

7. Help your loved one’s brain stay “energy balanced,” by purchasing healthy, whole foods and by giving her a backrub so that she rests well.
Atsuo Sasaki, PhD
Assistant Professor and Cancer Researcher
UC Brain Tumor Center and UC Cancer Institute

8. Encourage your loved one to seek help if you notice a radical change in mood or personality. And whether you see such a change or not, consider a gift of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate. Studies have shown that when eaten a few times a week in small amounts, it can improve arterial function, which can help lower blood pressure. What is good for the arteries is good for the heart and brain.
Cal Adler, MD
Associate Professor and Co-Medical Director
UC Mood Disorders Center

9. Buy her a membership at the gym. Research shows that exercise can positively impact not only health and fitness, but also memory. The Brain Research Center at the University of British Columbia recently found that physical activity improves verbal and spatial memory in older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment.
Matthew Flaherty, MD
Associate Professor of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine
UC Memory Disorders Center

10. Take care of yourself. As a surgeon, husband, and father, I think that you can show love to your family by taking care of yourself. Make a vow to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Exercise, eat right, and watch your weight. By taking care of yourself, you are loving your family.
Ravi Samy, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology
Director, Adult Cochlear Implantation Program

— Compiled by Cindy Starr

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