Dr. Howard Rankin

In today’s world, as we’re seeing more and more cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, finding ways to keep our minds healthy and engaged is becoming more and more a priority.

Healthcare professionals are realizing that lifestyle plays a major role in preventing dementia and other neurological disorders. It’s becoming recognized that what’s good for the heart is also good for the mind.

And that means eating foods that are predominantly whole plant-based foods, as well as getting plenty of exercise, getting adequate sleep, keeping the mind active by learning new skills, and resting the mind through practices like prayer, yoga and meditation.

Sometimes though, it can be hard to maintain that discipline without the support of a community around you. Now, Hilton Head Island health coach and author Dr. Howard Rankin and board-certified lifestyle medicine specialist Dr. Karen Holland have teamed up to bring a brain health initiative to our community.

Their efforts are based on the work of world-renown neurologists Dr. Dean Sherzai and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, husband and wife authors of “The Alzheimer’s Solution” and founders of the nonprofit Healthy Minds Initiative.

Dr. Holland, of Positively Healthy Concierge Lifestyle Medicine, had been envisioning and designing “Imagine … Hilton Head Island” for the past six years as an evidence-based collaborative community effort for optimal whole-person health. It has been her intent to make healthy choices the easy, fun, default choice for residents as well as tourists–integrating the local businesses, churches, and community organizations as integral players.

During this time, she met Dr. Dean Sherzai where they were colleagues together in a Leadership in Health Behavior PhD program.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rankin had worked with the Sherzais on various projects over the past three years and was instrumental in facilitating their visit to Hilton Head this past summer. From this meeting, seeing the perfect fit for Hilton Head with the Sherzais’s Healthy Minds Initiative, Drs. Holland and Rankin teamed up to create and co-direct Imagine … Hilton Head Island – A Healthy Minds Initiative.

This initiative will naturally encompass the area beyond Hilton Head. In fact, Dr. Rankin has been tasked with bringing healthy mind initiatives to communities up and down the eastern seaboard.

It’s an important initiative. All forms of dementia are skyrocketing in our country as the population ages. And given the attraction of our area for retiring seniors, we could, if nothing is done, see higher rates of dementia than other areas of the country might. Fortunately, through the efforts of Dr. Rankin and Dr. Holland, this area might be able to stem that tide.

It’s exciting to know that better nutrition through a whole food, plant-based way of eating is a major contributor to turning those statistics around.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.