Choose Healthy Habits for Heart and Mind

Healthnotes Newswire (September 24, 2009)—What’s good for your heart may be good for your mind. A recent study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes may also be risk factors for dementia. Fortunately, by choosing healthy lifestyle behaviors a person may reduce this risk and stay sharp and healthy for life.

Cardiac risk factors bad for the brain

In this study, researchers looked at the association between cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes and risk of hospitalization for dementia. Researchers studied data from 11,151 participants, 46 to 70 years old, enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The study began in 1990 and participants were followed for hospitalization for dementia through 2004.

Researchers found that people who had high blood pressure or diabetes or who smoked had a higher risk of hospitalization for dementia compared with people who did not. This was particularly true when these risk factors were present in midlife as opposed to later in life. There was no association between overweight or high cholesterol and dementia in this study.

“Evidence from our study and previous investigations have shown that cardiovascular risk factors, including smoking, hypertension and diabetes, are associated with a higher risk of dementia later in life,” said lead study author Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. “Even though no randomized trials have assessed whether prevention or treatment of these risk factors in midlife prevents dementia, the existing evidence suggests that interventions aimed to prevent cardiovascular disease through treatment of cardiovascular risk factors…will have the additional benefit of reducing the risk of dementia.”

Healthy habits boost both brain and body

Choosing healthy lifestyle behaviors is an important step for maintaining health and preventing disease. Here are some tips to keep the body—and particularly the mind—healthy.

Keep your mind active. Regularly engage in mind-challenging games, read books, or take a class to keep the mind sharp and alert.

Stay connected with others. Attend social events on a regular basis for fun and support.

Eat a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet may be a mind-healthy diet as well. Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and avoid excess calories and saturated fat.

Exercise regularly. Moderate physical activity most days of the week is recommended to optimize health and prevent disease.

Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for your health. See a doctor to help you stop smoking and if you don’t smoke…don’t start!

See a doctor regularly. Regular check-ups with a doctor are important to make sure that blood pressure and glucose levels are under control.

(J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2009;0:1–8. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2009.176818)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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