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What is good for the heart is good for the brain

Published on 14 February 2020 11:36 AM

Keeping heart and blood vessels healthy reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia according to a new report released by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).

The report, ‘The Brain-Heart Connection’ summarises the strongest research on the topic by the GCBH, which is made up of experts, scientists and health professionals from around the world and supported by Age UK.

The evidence shows that cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, an inactive lifestyle and obesity, all increase the risk of memory loss, thinking problems and dementia. The more cardiovascular problems you have, the greater the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.  

The GCBH also concluded there is strong evidence to show that it’s never too late to start treating those conditions or taking steps to help reduce the risks, even if you are in your 70s or 80s. The earlier a healthy lifestyle is adopted and any cardiovascular problems are treated the better, for a lifetime of a healthier brain.  

Age UK, a founding collaborator in the GCBH created by AARP*, echoes the views that drinking high amounts of alcohol, not getting enough quality sleep and smoking damages both the heart and the brain.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said: “Learning more about how to preserve good brain health later in life is extremely important. Diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels also affect the blood vessels in the brain and can cause damage there. The good news is that we can take steps to reduce our chances of cognitive decline and we can take positive action to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

“Having better control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, reducing the intake of salt and excessive alcohol, stopping smoking and taking steps to reduce the risk of having a Stroke - which is one of the strongest risk factors for dementia - all help to reduce that risk.”  

The experts recommend:

Be physically active.

  • Maintain a healthy weight with a balance of good diet and exercise.

  • Don't smoke.

  • Regularly check blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If they are high, work with a health professional to take steps to reduce it.

  • Work with health care providers or nutritionists to manage diabetes or prediabetes.

  • Have sleep problems such as apnoea checked and treated.
  • Make time to manage stress levels.

The full report can be found:


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Last updated: Feb 17 2020

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