Cognitive Science

What's Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Did you know that when you take care of your heart, you’re doing a lot of good for your brain? If you’re watching your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, then you’re also looking out for your brain health.

Conditions that compromise your cardiac health, like diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity are also associated with an increased risk of dementia.

The brain is a series of cells. Each cell needs oxygen-rich blood to survive. Oxygen-rich blood pumps from the heart, then through the arteries at the base of the skull. From there, the blood flows into smaller and smaller arteries until it reaches each cell via capillary. Inadequate blood flow to the cells will weaken them and eventually cells will die.

Many of the behaviors associated with cardiac risk are also associated with dementia.

As you can imagine, it’s important for your cognitive health to hang on to as many brain cells as possible. Many of the behaviors associated with cardiac risk are also associated with dementia. Smoking, drinking alcohol in excess, living a sedentary lifestyle and eating fatty, sugary foods hurt both your heart and your brain.

Your cognitive abilities can decline over time when your heart doesn’t send adequate blood flow to your brain cells. Most notably, vascular changes in brain areas cause memory loss and dementia. So, when you get your heart pumping, that’s nothing but good news for your brain.

It used to be believed that Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia were two distinct disorders. However, scientists now believe that the two disorders occur concurrently. So, reducing your risk for cardiac disorders also reduces your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s officially time to do your heart and brain a favor and get cracking with your physical activity, nutrition, sleep, stress, social interaction, and cognitive training.

Habit science tells us that it’s easier to change a habit by setting small goals. So now that you know your heart feeds your brain, of course you want to start working out an hour a day every day, like yesterday. But, we know that going full force ahead isn’t going to measure up to long-lasting change. Start small, with 5 minutes of cardio a day, then work your way up. The same goes for all new habits you start in your cognitive health program.


  • Boehm Julia K., Chen Ying, Koga Hayami, Mathur Maya B., Vie Loryana L., & Kubzansky Laura D. (2018). Is Optimism Associated With Healthier Cardiovascular-Related Behavior? Circulation Research, 122(8), 1119–1134. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.310828
  • Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 879–889. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.01.006

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