Researchers say that heart and brain health are connecting and that improving your cardiovascular health reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. A recently released report, “The Brain-Heart Connection,” released by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), summarizes the strongest research on this topic and offers practical lifestyle tips people can take to protect their heart and brain health.
The researchers noted that cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes, are known to be harmful to the brain. The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to experience cognitive decline. However, they say there is strong evidence that reducing or treating these conditions lowers a person’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia, even if changes are made in your 70s or 80s.
On Feb. 10, as Valentine’s Day approached, Sarah Lenz Lock AARP Senior Vice President for Policy and Executive Director of the GCBH, said: “The best Valentine’s gift you can give your brain is to take care of your heart, She noted: “The younger you start, the better for a lifetime of healthier brains, but no one should be discouraged or feel it’s too late to make a difference. Even simple steps to improve your heart health will benefit your brain, too!”
It’s Never Too Late…
According to the GCBH report, there are simple tips that can improve your heart health. Lead a physically active life. Check your blood pressure regularly and work with a health professional to lower it if it is too high. Smokers should quit, nonsmokers should not start. Take the time and steps to manage your stress effectively. Finally, if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, consult with a health provider and nutritionist to manage these conditions.
Additional lifestyle tips and recommendations for health providers are also included in “The Brain-Heart Connection,” along with a discussion of the scientific evidence supporting these conclusions, also citing gaps in current medical knowledge.
“The American Heart Association supports this report and commends AARP for focusing on the heart-brain connection. Despite growing science about this relationship, most people are not aware of it,” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., MS, FAHA, FAAN, President-Elect of the American Heart Association, immediate past Chair of the Advisory Committee of the American Stroke Association — a division of the American Heart Association, and Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University New York. “The Association is committed to collaborating across organizations to help people maintain healthy brains and hearts throughout their lives,” he says.
For a copy of this report, go to https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/health/brain_health/2020/02/gcbh-heart-health-report-english.doi.10.26419-2Fpia.00099.001.pdf