3 Ways That Being Heart-Healthy Helps Your Brain

A doctor holding up a heart over their chest

A growing body of research shows that habits which benefit your heart may also be good for brain health. It isn’t too late to make lifestyle changes: Even habits that you adopt later in life may help.

A report from the Global Council on Brain Health, an international collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts convened by AARP, includes several recommendations for individuals to incorporate into their lives to keep heart and blood vessels healthy and reduce the risk for cognitive decline and dementia. Three key strategies are:

1. Managing blood sugar

High blood sugar levels may cause inflammation, which can harm brain cells and increase the risk of memory problems. Low blood sugar levels may be problematic, too: New research has shown that people with a history of very high and very low blood sugar levels are six times as likely to develop dementia.

2. Aiming for optimal blood pressure

Keeping the first of your two blood pressure numbers below 120 lowers the risk of mild cognitive decline. A landmark study has shown that meeting this measure, which lowers the risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart failure and death from heart disease by 30 percent, can also lower the risk of early dementia by almost 20 percent. Making healthy lifestyle changes or taking blood pressure medication can help.

3. Quitting smoking

Smoking doesn’t just increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and irregular heartbeat, it also thins the brain area that controls memory, speech, language and perception. Lower volume in this part of the brain has been associated with mild depressive symptoms.

See the full article about how heart health and brain health are connected in 7 Ways to Keep Heart and Brain Strong. Find out more about how to protect your heart and brain in the Brain-Heart Connection.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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