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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. Check blood pressure regularly

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, but scientists say that it likely damages the brain in other ways as well. High blood pressure increases the risk of memory and thinking problems, as well as dementia. While we don’t yet know whether controlling blood pressure will prevent dementia — the most advanced form of memory loss — one important new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2019 showed that intensive blood pressure control reduces the risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a serious loss of memory and thinking skills.

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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