With all the talk of hearts this month, let’s take a look at how heart health affects your brain. It turns out what’s good for your heart really is good for your brain. Since the heart pumps blood through every vessel in your body, it makes sense. There is less oxygen and fewer nutrients to feed your brain if your heart is not functioning at full capacity.
“High blood pressure, artery disease and heart failure are strong risk factors for memory and thinking problems,” explains Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, Research Director, for the Rush Heart Center for Women and Associate Professor at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. “These conditions don’t just affect the heart. They can reduce blood flow and increase inflammation in the brain, leading to slower thinking, difficulty making decisions, and unbalanced walking.”
The good news is that this inflammation can be prevented or reduced through a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medical treatment. The result might even be an improvement in cognitive skills for people with heart disease.
Dr. Aggarwal recommends four steps to improving your heart and brain health. “Tackle these four pillars one at a time and build on them,” she says. “It’s a lot easier than taking them all on at once.”
“By following these four steps and working with your doctor, you can reduce your risk for heart disease and at the same time increase your brain health,” says Dr. Aggarwal. “And you might just be rewarded with the extra benefits of better sleep, less pain, fewer stomach problems and a better sense of well-being.”