The Unseen Side Effects of a Healthy Heart

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Do you know the chances of surviving a heart attack? According to WebMD, they’re actually pretty good at about 85%.

That doesn’t mean that anyone wants to test the statistics personally nor does “survival” guarantee a high quality of life thereafter. But it may be true that as public awareness grows about heart attack victims who fully recover and live well, the prospect of heart failure becomes less of a deterrent from an unhealthy life style.

In fact, WebMD also notes that survival has become more likely despite the fact that heart attack victims are in generally worse cardio-vascular health (more high blood pressure and diabetes) than in the past. This suggests that the better survival rate is due to better medical techniques, not to a general trend toward improved vascular health.

Healthy Hearts Maintain Healthy Brains
Importantly, there are other, less obvious but perhaps more compelling reasons to care for your heart. Mainly, good vascular health is extremely important to maintaining a healthy brain. While most of us accept the fact that our tennis serve will likely slow as we age, few are so willing to accept the prospect of diminishing cognitive capacity. The good news is that cognitive decline is far from inevitable and we probably don’t need to accept it.

So how does one take good care of their heart and reap the brain related benefits? What exactly should one do? The answer is to focus on managing those risks that are known to be associated with poor heart health.

These risks include monitoring and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass. Making the heart work extra hard to pump blood through the body is a strain that, when considered cumulatively across many years, can greatly increase the likelihood of emergent problems. The primary behaviors one should adopt are well known and should not come as a surprise; they are sensible diet and regular physical exercise.

In terms of diet, there are many helpful resources available including a very good one at the Mayo Clinic. In general, one should be sure to get the necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals while avoiding high calorie foods containing unhealthy amounts of saturated and trans fats.

Regarding physical exercise, it needn’t be overly rigorous as much as it should be regular. Walking may be the most under-rated form of exercise but its benefits to the heart and brain are well documented. Starting each day with a 30-40 minute walk at a pace slightly faster than leisurely is easy on muscles and joints but beneficially demanding on the heart and lungs.

The Unseen Side Effects
The unseen but well established side effects of taking care of one’s heart include a healthier brain and better cognition. Evidence has been pouring in for the last year that these benefits may be much greater than many of us initially understood. In the last few months alone, our knowledge of the link between vascular health and cognitive health has increased significantly.

For example, a study at UCLA showed a strong link between obesity and brain shrinkage, a study published in the journal Neurology showed that high blood pressure is associated with memory loss, and Kaiser Permanente published that even borderline high-cholesterol increases the risk for dementia.

There is no doubt that keeping an oxygen-rich supply of blood flowing freely to the brain is key to maintaining good intellectual health and to aging with cognitive vitality. You can accomplish this through all of the well-established approaches to vascular health that we’ve all been hearing about for decades. The good news is that everything you can do to keep your heart healthy will also benefit your brain.

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This article was featured by Life Line Screening.

Life Line Screening, in business since 1993, is the nation's leading
provider of preventive health screenings. Screenings detect risk of
stroke, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis and are provided in
comfortable, familiar community-based venues such as town halls and

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