Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected?  They have a very special relationship. Your heart pumps blood through vessels to every part of your body, including your brain. By keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, you also lower your risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. 

A variety of factors that affect your blood vessels or vascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes may also hurt your brain. Over time these factors may lead to brain deterioration. Our lifestyle choices can play a big role in reducing our risks. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and how to keep both healthy.

  • Getty Images
    Getty Images

    Move More

    Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Current guidelines state that we need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Little things can add up. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Whatever you do, get moving!

  • Getty Images
    Getty Images

    Build Muscle

    Aerobic exercise coupled with strength training at least two times per week has been shown to improve heart health.  You can use weight, machines, bands or even your own body weight for resistance.

  • Getty Images/Tetra images RFJ/GI-Tom-Gril1
    Getty Images/Tetra images RFJ/GI-Tom-Gril1

    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, there are many resources to help you quit.

  • Getty Images
    Getty Images

    Be More Mindful

    Regular meditation or a mindful practice may help reduce the risk of worsening vascular health.  Find ways to keep stress or anxiety in check.

  • Getty Images/Westend61
    Getty Images/Westend61

    Get Adequate Sleep

    Poor sleeping patterns and not getting enough rest is associated with worsening health and cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and weight gain.

  • Getty Images/Science Photo Libra
    Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

    Control Diabetes

    Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

  • Getty Images/Terry-Vine
    Getty Images/Terry-Vine

    Keep High Blood Pressure in Check

    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 health care provider to manage it.  High blood pressure can often be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication.

  • Getty Images/Photo-by-Cathy-Scola
    Getty Images/Photo-by-Cathy-Scola

    Eat a Heart/Brain Healthy Diet

    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.  Reduce your sodium (salt) intake and limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and 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. Cut back on frozen meals, take-out, deli meat, and cheese, which are high sources in sodium that can drive up blood pressure.

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