The Special Relationship Between Your Heart and Brain and 8 Ways To Keep Them Healthy
Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected? They have a very special relationship. Your heart pumps blood through vessels to every part of your body, including your brain. By keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, you also lower your risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
A variety of factors that affect your blood vessels or vascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes may also hurt your brain. Over time these factors may lead to brain deterioration. Our lifestyle choices can play a big role in reducing our risks. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and how to keep both healthy.
Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Current guidelines state that we need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Little things can add up. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Whatever you do, get moving!
Aerobic exercise coupled with strength training at least two times per week has been shown to improve heart health. You can use weight, machines, bands or even your own body weight for resistance.
Smoking damages blood vessels and makes blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, there are many resources to help you quit.
Regular meditation or a mindful practice may help reduce the risk of worsening vascular health. Find ways to keep stress or anxiety in check.
Poor sleeping patterns and not getting enough rest is associated with worsening health and cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and weight gain.
Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure puts too much stress on blood vessels. Scientists now know that having uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife also raises your risk for dementia later in life. Know your numbers by getting your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is high, work with your health care provider to manage it. High blood pressure can often be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication.
Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon) each week. Reduce your sodium (salt) intake and limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and intake. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and increase the risk of some kinds of heart disease. Cut back on frozen meals, take-out, deli meat, and cheese, which are high sources in sodium that can drive up blood pressure.