What’s good for your heart is good for your brain

Did you know several studies have made a connection between heart health and brain health? Research also shows that the risk of developing dementia appears to increase because of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels.1

Lifestyle factors can have an impact on both heart and brain health. The good news – it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes to lower the risk of heart disease and dementia.

From a physiological perspective, we know that the heart is a pump that, when functioning well, delivers oxygen-rich blood to working tissues – including the brain. We also know that an increase in oxygen to the brain can help in:

  • Growing new neurons (brain cells) at any age
  • Improving communication between neurons and between different regions of the brain.

These factors aid in preserving cognitive functions including focus, attention and concentration.

 

So, what can we do for our heart – that will ultimately help our brain?

Get moving
Physical activity strengthens heart function by:

  • Increasing ‘stretch’ pliability of the left ventricle wall, which increases the ejection fraction of the heart. This means more effective pumping of blood.
  • Improving ability of arteries to dilate (or enlarge) which increases blood flow.

Get checked
The Australian Heart Foundation recommends adults aged over 45 years regularly have heart health checks with their GP. This health check includes an evaluation of lifestyle factors, and an assessment of cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Minimise risk factors
Lifestyle risk factors for heart disease include smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, being inactive or high alcohol consumption.

 

Author

Helen Beeley, Physiotherapist. 

 

Gottesman RF, Albert MS, Alonso A, et al, Associations Between Midlife Vascular Risk Factors and 25-Year Incident Dementia in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Cohort. JAMA Neurol. 2017; PMID: 28783817

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