The Surprising Link Between Heart Health And Cognitive Health

We all know that a healthy heart is a key component to having good health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, our hearts beat an average of 2.5 billion times and pump millions of gallons of blood throughout our bodies over the course of our lives. Incorporating a healthy diet, exercise, and eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking help keep our hearts strong and healthy.

When we think of an unhealthy heart, we usually think of cardiovascular diseases that affect the heart's arteries. Cardiovascular disease can result in stroke, heart attack, and in some cases death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, accounting for 659,000 deaths each year. New research has shown that heart health is not only important for keeping our blood flowing and bodies going, but that our heart even has an impact on the way our brains function.

Study shows that heart disease risk factors increase risk for Alzheimer's and dementia

A new study published in Neurology demonstrated how risk factors for cardiovascular disease are linked to Alzheimer's and cognitive decline. The study followed 1,200 initially healthy participants for 20-25 years. When the study concluded, 6% of participants had developed Alzheimer's and 3% had developed dementia from vascular disease (via U.S. News).

According to U.S. News, study author Bryn Farnsworth von Cederwald of Umeå University in Sweden said, "Our study suggests that having an accelerated risk of cardiovascular disease, quickly accumulating more risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity, is predictive of dementia risk and associated with the emergence of memory decline."

As time progressed, the risk for heart disease remained stable in 22% of participants, increased moderately in 60%, and rose rapidly in 18%. Those with an accelerated risk of heart disease were three to six times more likely to develop Alzheimer's and three to four times more likely to develop vascular dementia.

In response to the findings, Farnworth von Cederwald said (via U.S. News), "It is important to determine and address all risk factors in each person, such as reducing high blood pressure, stopping smoking and lowering BMI, rather than just address individual risk factors in an effort to prevent or slow dementia."