Your heart and brain health are closely linked and it’s important to start forming healthy habits in your kids, for long-term benefits in both.
Dr. Mitchell Elkind, past president of the American Heart Association explains that studies show a link between heart disease and cognitive issues.
He says, “if you’ve had heart disease earlier in life or in mid-life for example, in middle age, you’re more likely to develop cognitive problems and dementia later in life.”
In fact, just battling some of the risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes, can increase your risk of cognitive decline.
Dr. Elkind explains, “damage to the blood vessels, from conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, cholesterol can lead to gradual occlusion of those vessels or blockages in those vessels that overtime can cause what we can ‘micro-infarcts.’ Tiny little strokes deep within the brain that may not even be visible on regular imaging like CT scans or MRI scans.”
To avoid the impacts in a person’s older age, Dr. Elkind says to start making healthy habits a priority for your kids.
“Physical activity and exercise are one of the few things that’s been shown to have an impact on brain structure and function later in life.”
He says, “the numbers may not necessarily be as abnormal early in life, but for people who aren’t getting enough exercise or aren’t eating right, then those bad numbers, the high cholesterol, the high blood sugars and so forth could follow later.”
With heart health in mind, Dr. Elkind says to take note of what the American Heart Association calls Life’s Simple 7, which are the seven risk factors that you can improve through lifestyle changes:
- Manage blood pressure
- Control cholesterol
- Reduce blood sugar
- Get active
- Eat better
- Lose weight
- Stop smoking