Taking care of your heart
Heart disease in midlife can contribute to poor brain health in later life. Evidence from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study5 shows that high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes significantly increase the risk of heart disease and strokes, which are linked to vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.6 7 8. If you are affected by any of these conditions, your GP can help you make changes to your lifestyle or offer medication to improve your health.
Again, regular exercise1 is important and a balanced diet, low in sugars and saturated fats, can help to maintain a healthy weight. Since obesity is associated with the risk of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, this can increase your risk of dementia later in life5.
Regular alcohol consumption is also linked to poor heart and brain health5. One recent study showed evidence that regularly drinking alcohol is linked to shrinkage of the hippocampus9 – an area of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease10. There is no evidence that alcohol protects brain health and current NHS advise is that people should have no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over at least three days11.
Smoking also has an impact on both heart and brain health5. Recently, researchers showed that people who smoke are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia, but the good news is that if you stop smoking the level of dementia risk lowers to the level of non-smokers5.