Brain Health Is Connected to Heart Health

Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected? By keeping your heart healthy, you also lower your risk for brain problems such as stroke and dementia. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and steps to take to keep both healthy.

Your heart pumps blood through vessels to every part of your body, including your brain. Damage to blood vessels can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Keeping your blood vessels healthy can help you have a strong heart and brain.

Husband and wife riding bikes through the park.

Take steps to help keep your blood vessels healthy, so you can have a strong heart and brain.

Unhealthy Heart, Unhealthy Brain

Some health conditions and unhealthy habits can damage blood vessels, putting your heart and your brain at risk for serious problems.

  • A heart attack happens when plaque buildup or a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart.
  • A stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack,” happens when a clot or a plaque blocks a blood vessel in the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. When this happens, brain tissue dies, which can lead to memory loss and disability.
  • A type of dementia called vascular dementiaexternal icon can happen as a result of a series of small, “silent” strokes, sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Dementia can cause memory loss, slowed thinking, and personality changes.

Steps to a Healthy Brain and Heart

Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected? By keeping your heart healthy, you also lower your risk for brain problems such as stroke and dementia. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and steps to take to keep both healthy.

Heart disease, stroke, and vascular dementia are preventable. Take steps to reduce your risk.

  1. Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure puts too much stress on blood vessels. Scientists now know that having uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife also raises your risk for dementia later in life. Know your numbers by getting your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is high, work with your doctor, nurse, or health care team to manage it. One way to manage your blood pressure is to take your medicines as prescribed. Learn more ways to manage blood pressure.
  2. A healthy plate with fish and vegetables on it.

    Choose healthy foods, such as salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, to help protect your heart.

    Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon) each week. Limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and lower your sodium (salt) intake. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and increase the risk of some kinds of heart disease.

  3. Get diabetes under control. Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
  4. Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and makes blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
  5. Stay active. Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Most Americans don’t get the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week the guidelines recommend.1 Find ways to get your heart pumping for at least 150 minutes per week. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Learn more about how to get enough physical activity.

More Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Reference

  1. CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, Figure 7.5. Percentage of adults aged 18 and over who met 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities through leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities: United States, 2010–2018external icon. Accessed March 13, 2020.