WASHINGTON—A new report from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) confirms that heart and brain health are connected, and that taking action to improve your cardiovascular health reduces your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. “The Brain-Heart Connection” summarizes the strongest research on this topic and offers practical lifestyle tips people can take to protect their heart and brain health.
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, 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.
“The best Valentine’s gift you can give your brain is to take care of your heart,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP Senior Vice President for Policy and Executive Director of the GCBH. “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!”
The GCBH recommends that adults take the following steps to improve their 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.
- If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking in any form is bad for the heart and the brain.
- Take the time and steps to manage your stress effectively.
- If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, consult with a health provider and nutritionist in order to help manage these conditions.
Additional lifestyle tips and recommendations for health providers are included in “The Brain-Heart Connection,” along with a discussion of the scientific evidence supporting these conclusions and 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.”
Click here to download a copy of “The Brain-Heart Connection.” Previous reports from the GCBH on exercise, nutrition, sleep and other modifiable lifestyle factors that can help your brain and your heart at any age are available here.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
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