Is there a connection between heart disease and dementia? Yes. The motto is: “What’s good for your heart is good for your head.”
February is a time when we focus on heart health. It’s not just important to the heart, but to other parts of the body to keep it pumping optimally. The heart pumps approximately 20 percent of the body’s blood to the brain and when that is compromised the brain isn’t getting all of the oxygen and fuel it needs.
What You Need to Know: Vascular Dementia
There is not a single cause of dementia for people worldwide and scientists continue to research not only a possible cure for the disease but also its cause in hopes of preventing it.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association. The cause for vascular dementia is brain damage—such as a stroke—that results in reduced blood flow to the brain. This is often seen in people living with high blood pressure or who have a history of strokes or heart attacks. It is possible for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease to develop vascular dementia as well.
Symptoms of vascular dementia can vary widely. Memory loss may or may not be one of the symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that after a stroke someone may exhibit the following symptoms:
- vision loss
- difficulty speaking or understanding spoken communication
In addition, depression can co-exist with brain vascular disease.
What You Need to Know: Keeping the Heart Healthy
The Alzheimer’s Association states, “Any condition that damages your heart or blood vessels can affect your brain’s blood supply.”
This means that brain health starts with good heart health practices:
- Get off the couch and engage in exercise that gets your heart pumping. This can be a brisk walk, a water exercise class, or skipping rope—even 10 minutes a day of working out can reduce heart disease risk.
- Eat better. Rather than adopting the latest diet craze or setting hard-to-achieve goals, start by adding more vegetables and fruits to your daily meals. The Mayo Clinic recommends five servings of vegetables and fruits per day.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increase the risk of stroke and it affects the blood flow to the brain.
As people age, their risk for dementia and heart disease continues to increase. Take steps—literally—to reduce the changes of heart ailments that might lead to dementia.