Taking Care of Your Heart Helps Your Brain

A cartoon heart and brain depicted next to one another, with an arcing arrow pointing from the heart to the brain, and another arrow from the brain to the heart

How you treat your heart in your 20s may help your brain when you’re in your 40s and 50s. That’s the finding of a new study that looked at data of 518 participants from a long-range study on heart health.

Guidelines for a healthy heart and brain

According to researchers, young adults who followed the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) guidelines had brains with more volume, so their brains looked more than 10 years younger in middle age than did the brains of others who didn’t follow the LS7 guidelines.

Following the guidelines of LS7, not only in early adulthood but at any time, can have a positive impact on your overall health.

AHA’s "Life’s Simple 7" guidelines

  1. Manage blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  2. Control cholesterol. Avoiding plaque buildup in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, can reduce your heart attack or stroke risk. Your health care provider will consider your HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels with other factors to assess your risk.
  3. Control blood sugar. Managing your blood sugar levels can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, which does damage to your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. If you’re age 45 or older, get tested for diabetes and get retested at least every three years.
  4. Be active. Engaging in activity on most days of the week helps your overall cardiovascular health. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.
  5. Eat better. Choosing healthy foods such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meat, fish or poultry gives your body energy and helps fight disease.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, if needed. Shedding extra pounds reduces the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton, and helps lower blood pressure.
  7. Stop smoking. Quitting lowers your risk of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Schedule a checkup with your provider to learn your risk factors for cardiovascular disease and steps you can take to get or stay healthy.