I read the latest report from the Global Council on Brain Health with great interest after my New Year’s resolution of exercising more each week. The new report from the 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 gift you can give your brain is to take care of your heart,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP senior vp 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 prediabetes, 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 Assn., immediate past chair of the Advisory Committee of the American Stroke Assn. — a division of the American Heart Assn., 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.”
Visit the AARP website to download a copy of “The Brain-Heart Connection.” Previous reports from the GCBH include exercise, nutrition, sleep and other modifiable lifestyle factors that can help your brain and heart at any age. The full report is available at www.GlobalCouncilonBrainHealth.org.
About the GCBH
The GCBH, founded in 2015, is an independent international group of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts working on brain health issues. Convened by AARP with support from Age UK, the goal of the GCBH is to review current scientific evidence and provide recommendations for people so that they can maintain and improve brain health.
To learn more about the actions consumers can take to help maintain and improve their brain health, visit www.stayingsharp.org.
Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.