Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just caused by genetic factors. We now know that a variety of lifestyle factors can change your risk for developing memory loss and cognitive impairment.
And now, there is growing evidence that some of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are the same ones that are what causes heart disease; following tips to keep your heart healthy might also prevent memory loss.
Cardiovascular disease risk factors are associated with reduced brain volume and cognitive impairment
The journal Radiology published a study in July 2015 that analyzed data from 1,629 men and women. The participants had extensive laboratory tests done that measured cardiovascular risk factors and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Seven years later, there was a follow up where each participant had a brain scan and cognitive assessment.
The findings of the study revealed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease were associated with reduced total brain volumes, as well as smaller volumes in specific brain regions like the hippocampus, posterior cingulated cortex, and precuneus region.
In particular, alcohol use, diabetes, and an enlargement in the left part of the heart was associated with smaller total brain volume, even in those participants under the age of 50.
Alcohol consumption and smoking were associated with smaller hippocampal volumes; smoking and obesity were associated with smaller posterior cingulate volumes; and alcohol use, elevated fasting blood sugar, and obesity were associated with smaller precuneus regions.
Reductions in brain volume as measured by the brain scans correlated with reduced cognitive performance in the participants. Smaller brain volumes in these regions are known to be warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease; the findings of the study suggest that people who smoke, drink alcohol, are obese, or who have other risk factors for heart disease may be damaging their brains along with their hearts.
Modifying your heart disease risk may prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Lifestyle factors that may be hurting your heart health may also be hurting your brain, too. So get started today in reducing your risk for both cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Start by looking at your daily habits and identifying those that are unhealthy.
- If you smoke or drink heavily, take steps to reduce your use. For tips on how to overcome additions, read more here.
- Next, look at your diet. Do you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables? Do you limit sugar, carbohydrate-heavy foods, and processed foods? Try out a diet plan like the Mediterranean diet, which is both heart-healthy and good for your brain.
- Finally, make sure to make regular physical activity a part of your routine. This may mean taking a 30-minute walk every evening, or it may mean upping your gym visits. Find something that works for you and that you enjoy, such as swimming, yoga, tai chi, or hiking.
Share your experience
What do you do to stay healthy? What heart healthy tips do you have to share? Share your experience in the comments section below.