Does Heart Health Affect the Brain?
Protecting your heart requires a healthy diet, frequent exercise, and taking control of risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. But did you know that your heart health also plays a part in maintaining a healthy brain?
Maintaining Good Heart Health
Living a heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke; however, it can also reduce your risk for cognitive decline. There are many risk factors that may contribute to heart diseases― physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterol― that also contribute to an increased risk of cognitive dysfunction, like memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. So, why would risk factors for heart disease also increase the risk for cognitive decline? An unhealthy heart can cause blood vessels to narrow, creating a thin passageway for blood flow. These narrow passageways subsequently reduce the amount of blood flow that reaches the brain. This may cause the brain to malfunction, leading to problems with thinking and memory.
By adopting habits that promote heart health, you can reduce your risk for cognitive decline or even slow its progression. Here are 5 common risk factors that can be improved through simple lifestyle changes to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
Manage your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Your blood pressure levels should stay within a healthy range of about 120/80. Anything above 129/80 is considered elevated and should be controlled. Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels may reduce the strain on the heart, arteries, and kidneys, keeping you healthier longer.
Learn to control your cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol contributes to plaque growth which can clog your arteries and lead to heart diseases. A controlled cholesterol level can come from eating smart, moving more, and taking medications as directed.
Reduce your blood sugar.
Most of the food we consume is turned into glucose (blood sugar) that our bodies need for energy. High levels of blood sugar can damage your heart and lead to complications. A normal and healthy blood sugar level is lower than 100 mg/dl and can be measured by your health care provider.
Practice daily physical activity.
Staying active can not only strengthen your heart, but it can also increase your quality of life and lengthen your lifespan. A healthy amount of physical activity consists of about 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. Sit less and be active.
Maintain a healthy diet. A healthy diet is one of the best lifestyle changes that you can make to combat cardiovascular disease. Eat more fish, lean proteins, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables instead of processed foods, sweetened beverages, and refined sugars or carbohydrates. Make sure to read nutrition labels and choose products with lower amounts of sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars.
Making these simple lifestyle changes can strengthen your heart while greatly decreasing your risk of heart disease and cognitive decline. A healthy heart leads to a healthy brain. Talk to your healthcare provider about your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels and how you can maintain your heart health to live a long, productive, and healthy life.
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