Protect Your Heart to Protect Your Brain

Protect Your Heart to Protect Your Brain

Cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc on the coast of northeastern Australia this spring. The torrential rains caused three major rivers to crest their banks, eventually creating a giant brown plume of sludge stretching 11 miles out to sea, polluting the waters around the Great Barrier Reef.

That sludge caused double damage to the reef by blocking light the plants and animals need to survive and depositing high levels of nitrogen. Some scientists are saying the bleaching that’s devastating the reef is irreversible.

Just as those rivers ended up causing double damage to the reef, when you damage your arteries with smoking, obesity, high blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure, you’re hurting your heart and your brain!

A new study that tracked more than 300 people for over 20 years found middle-age folks with just one risk factor for heart disease (smoking, obesity, high LDL cholesterol, or high blood pressure) were almost twice as likely–by the time they were seniors–to end up with amyloid deposits in the brain. Obesity was the strongest risk factor.

When blood vessels are damaged, amyloid can leak out into brain tissue—and then Alzheimer’s-related amyloid tangles build up.

Luckily, your damage may be reversible. You can save your brain by doing what’s best for your heart: If you smoke, quit; ditch the Five Food Felons; get in your 10,000 steps a day; lose weight if you need to; and reduce your blood pressure and lousy cholesterol with lifestyle changes and medications if needed. 

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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