Reduce your risk of dementia by understanding the brain heart connection | Alzheimer's Prevention Registry

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February 19, 2020

Reduce your risk of dementia by understanding the brain heart connection

By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin


Did you know that taking care of your heart can reduce your risk for memory and thinking problems? A review of medical research conducted by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) recently showed a reduced risk of dementia with improved heart health. So, let’s review their major findings to learn how we can take better care of our hearts and brains.

According to the report, while the incidence of dementia is expected to continue rising as the population ages, there are actions people 50 and over can take to reduce their personal risk. One of the most effective options is modifying your lifestyle to improve your heart health. According to the GCBH experts, “Adults who adopt healthy lifestyle habits and treat any cardiovascular risk factors as early as possible will help reduce their risk for cognitive decline later in life.”

Know the risk factors

Medical experts agree that healthy arteries and good blood flow are best for brain function.  Cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity restrict the arteries and thus reduce the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain. They may also trigger tiny strokes that can damage the brain over time. This reduced blood flow can result in vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s.

These conditions can also cause a stroke, one of the strongest known risk factors for dementia. You can reduce your risk for vascular stroke by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treating other conditions such as atrial fibrillation, a dangerous irregular heartbeat.

If you think you or a loved one may be having a stroke, call for emergency help. Quick medical care gives health providers a better chance of reversing the effects of a stroke.

Remember the most common signs of stroke with the FAST acronym:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call for emergency help

Improving your lifestyle

The report’s lifestyle recommendations can strengthen your heart and feed your brain.  We recommend you speak to your doctor about these suggestions. 

  • Stay physically active. A good goal is 150 minutes of moderate activity per week and at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Don’t smoke. It’s never too late to quit and experience the health benefits of not smoking.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly. If it’s higher than 130/80, work with your doctor to manage it.
  • Keep your cholesterol in check. If you are taking cholesterol-lowering medication, be sure to take it regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar as defined by your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, manage these conditions with your doctor.
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.  Talk to your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea.
  • Manage your stress.

Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death and is strongly linked to memory and thinking problems. So, heed the advice of the experts at the Global Council on Brain Health and live as active a lifestyle as you can. To learn more, read the entire report from GCBH on “The Brain-Heart Connection: GCBH Recommendations to Manage Cardiovascular Risks to Brain Health.”