February is heart health month!
Let's talk about the connection between our hearts and our brains (although they often seem at war with each other!)
Everyone can improve their heart health and reduce their risk of dementia (even if you are young!)
My grandmother always used to say…getting old sucks but it’s better than the alternative!
I wish I could tell my Grandmother now that getting old can be great! Keeping your heart healthy may be a key component to staving off dementia so that getting older can be as amazing as you want it to be!
Growing evidence is showing a close link between the health of the heart and the health of the brain.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the US suffers a heart attack or stroke, and every 65 seconds someone develops dementia. The culprit is cardiovascular disease—and rates are soaring in younger, seemingly healthy people.
The brain is nourished by one of the body's richest networks of blood vessels, which the heart pumps oxygen rich blood through.
Oxygen to the brain = Nourishment!
As a result, many factors that damage the heart or blood vessels may also damage the brain.
When the brain is not able to get as much oxygen, it may increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Some autopsy studies show that as many as 80 percent of individuals with Alzheimer's disease also have cardiovascular disease.
This may be a key to understanding why some people who develop plaques and tangles on the brain – the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease – do not develop the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Autopsy studies suggest that plaques and tangles may be present in the brain without causing symptoms of cognitive decline unless the brain also shows evidence of vascular disease.
Will keeping my heart healthy keep my brain healthy?
What’s good for your heart is be good for your brain, too.
So what can you do right now to start improving your heart health?
1.Physical activity: It not only protects the heart but improves cognitive function and may also protect against dementia. Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Most Americans don’t get the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week the guidelines recommend. Find ways to get your heart pumping for at least 150 minutes per week. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Learn more about how to get enough physical activity.
2. Diet. Consuming a heart-healthy diet can also protect the brain! Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon) each week. Limit foods with added sugars and trans fats, and lower your processed food intake. If you drink alcohol, drink it sparingly. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and increase the risk of some kinds of heart disease.
3. Smoking: There is fairly strong evidence that current smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline and possibly also dementia, and that quitting smoking may reduce the associated risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
4. Reduce Diabetes: Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
5. Quit Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and makes blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, look into avenues to help you quit.
6. Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure puts too much stress on blood vessels. Scientists now know that having uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife also raises your risk for dementia later in life. Know your numbers by getting your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is high, work with your doctor, nurse, or health care team to manage it.