November 13, 2017

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.


Alzheimer’s disease is not an inevitable part of growing old. While there is no cure for the disease once you have it, strong evidence shows that a healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s later in life.

Your brain is about 2 percent of your body weight, but circulates 15 percent of the blood from the heart and uses a whopping 25 percent of the glucose energy. Keeping your heart strong helps your mind stay sharper later in life.

“Poor heart function could prove to be a major risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Angela Jefferson, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center.

“A very encouraging aspect of our findings is that heart health is a modifiable risk. You may not be able to change your genetics or family history, but you can engage in a heart-healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise at any point in your lifetime.”


Healthy body = healthy brain

Get active

We all know that regular physical activity lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. Add reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s to the long list of benefits of cardiovascular health. Here are 8 things you can do to improve your heart health now.

Eat healthy

Two diets are singled out for having the potential to protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Mediterranean and DASH diets (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) encourage eating vegetables, berries and other fruits, nuts, fish and whole grains. They recommend limiting red meat, saturated fats, refined sugars and sodium.

Stay socially connected and mentally active

The reasons are not scientifically clear, but connecting with friends and family also seems to be related to delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s. Taking classes, learning languages and challenging your mind may have long-term benefits for preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Sleep well

Getting as much quality sleep as possible throughout your life seems to keep your brain healthier and your mind sharper. Find a wealth of information about quality sleep here.

Are you concerned about your memory or the memory of a loved one? Learn about clinical services for Alzheimer’s disease or participating in research at the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center.