Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain?

Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain?


By: Kennedy Shelley

What you eat and what you do in your 50’s may determine what you can do in your 60’s.

That’s what new research shows.  It turns out that your decisions in terms of diet and exercise make a huge difference in your brains health in the decades following.

The British Medical Journal published a study on August 7 that showed how our actions can prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

It was a Cohort study, which looks at several samples of similar people over time.

They took a look at people who followed the American Heart Associations “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines to see if adherence lead to lower dementia risk.

The seven guidelines are:

  1. Manage Blood Pressure
  2. Control Cholesterol
  3. Reduce Blood Sugar
  4. Get Active
  5. Eat Better
  6. Lose Weight
  7. Stop Smoking

The study looked at people in various studies which followed people through death reports and mental health records.

The bottom line was that not only does the American Heart Association’s suggestions work for heart health, they also seem to work for brain health too.

The beginning signs of dementia often first manifest 15 to 20 years before things get out of hand.  Being smart with your health can pay major dividends.

While this may seem like “Radical Common Sense” it is really vindication of smart lifestyle choices.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are ghastly conditions that steal your memories.  It is a cruel way to end your life.

The study population was over 10,000 people recruited from the British Civil Service back in the 1980’s.

They were assessed and followed for the next twenty years.  Measures were made of their cardiovascular health.

The British Medical Service made long term tracking for dementia much easier since people are tracked using a unique numbering system.

This allowed for people who were participating in the study to be flagged when they were first diagnosed with dementia.

The study determined where the participants were in their 50s as far as their cardiovascular health and the lifestyle choices people were making.

This really was the point where lifestyle choices paid some of the biggest dividends.  Those who finally listened to their doctor and who lost weight and got active had the least amount of dementia.

Those who ignored the advice suffered the most.

The better you treat your heart, the more of your brain function you get to keep seems to be the key message from the study.

Not everyone who continued to smoke and refused to get active ended up with dementia, but those who refused to take their advice were triple the risk of ending up with diminished brain function.

What is so interesting is that most people were first diagnosed at 75.  That means that their personal health decisions 20 years before the diagnosis tripled their chances of losing vast sections of their mental capacity.

The lessons here are it really isn’t too late to make changes until you have problems.

When I approached 50, I quit smoking, lost over 100 pounds and now do yoga and HIIT training.  And not only do I feel better than I did 20 years ago, it is comforting to know I’m protecting my brain 20 years from now.