A Healthy Brain Takes a Little Heart

There’s a lot of talk about ways to boost your brainpower. But it turns out that keeping your brain healthy entails many of the same good habits as keeping the rest of your body, especially your heart, in good shape.

Although not everyone slows down cognitively with age, many of us become more likely to experience loss of memory and decline in thought processes as we grow older. While some of this is normal, it can also signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Is there anything that can be done to offset this risk?

First, let’s look at the possible causes. There is growing evidence that many of the same risk factors for dementia also apply to heart disease:

  • High cholesterol: Some studies have confirmed an association with Alzheimer’s.
  • Diabetes: Associated with a significant increase of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
  • High blood pressure: Treatment with blood pressure lowering medications is associated with better cognitive function.
  • Smoking: Data is conflicting, but it’s just bad for you, period.
  • Metabolic syndrome (a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cholesterol imbalance): One study found that the presence of Alzheimer’s more than doubled.

Now let’s look at controlling those risk factors for heart disease. There’s little to no downside (from a brain-health perspective), and heart-healthy habits could improve your lifespan and quality of life greatly.

  • Monitor and control blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes
  • Stop smoking
  • Curtail obesity
  • Exercise and practice healthy nutrition

In addition, keep your mind sharp by challenging yourself cognitively.

  • Work puzzles such as crossword
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Read
  • Stay socially active

While the medical community is still discovering the exact nature of the relationship between heart health and brain health, there does indeed appear to be a connection—not to mention the fact that there are great side benefits to developing healthy habits. If you have any concerns about your cognitive health, I encourage you to speak with your physician.

In the meantime, here are links you might find informative and useful:

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