The People's Perspective on Medicine

Helping Your Heart Means Boosting Your Brain

A study of French senior citizens shows that if you do a good job of helping your heart with diet and exercise, you also dramatically lower your likelihood of dementia.

We have long suspected that taking care of your heart health with exercise, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, stress management and social interaction could also benefit your brain. Now a French study provides evidence that when you are helping your heart you also reduce your risk of dementia (JAMA, Aug. 21, 2018).

What Is the Evidence on Helping Your Heart?

French researchers enrolled 6626 healthy older volunteers (at least 65 years old) in this study and asked them questions about their heart health such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The participants also took tests to determine how well their brains were working. Researchers made sure they followed up to determine if and when the study subjects developed dementia.

Those with the best scores on the American Heart Association metric were significantly less likely to develop dementia during the next eight and a half years.

Helping Your Heart:

The American Heart Association metric included:

  1. Not smoking
  2. Body mass index under 25
  3. Eating fish at least twice a week and consuming vegetables or fruits at least thrice daily
  4. Regular physical activity
  5. Total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL
  6. Fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL
  7. Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg

Among those who had few if any optimal results on these items, 1.76 individuals per 100 persons/year developed dementia. In contrast, those who scored optimally on 6 or 7 items were only half as likely to be diagnosed with this brain disorder. (The rate was 0.8/100 person-years.) That is a very significant drop.

Wouldn’t you be willing to follow the rules for helping your heart if you knew it would also cut your risk of dementia so dramatically? We know we would.

Learn More About Helping Your Heart:

If you would like to learn more about managing cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar without medications, you may wish to review our Health Guides on these topics.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Someone recently stressed to me the role of posture. Slumped shoulder reduce the amount of oxygen to the brain, and this has a bearing on dementia. I would be interested in hearing more about this.

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