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Multiple Heart Diseases May Increase Risk Of Dementia, New Study Reveals

Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor By Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
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As you grow older, your health may be affected in a number of ways. Heart disease in its many forms often crops up with age, and dementia is another ailment that can affect an older-leaning demographic. But what if we told you these two may actually be connected?

According to a new study conducted by the Lancet Healthy Longevity, people who have multiple heart conditions appear more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than even those at a higher genetic risk. This large study (200,000 people age 60 and older) looked at data from those suffering from stroke, a heart attack, or cardiometabolic diabetes, and found that the more of these conditions someone had, the more likely they were to also develop dementia down the line.

Study method.

Over the course of more than 10 years, authors of the study analyzed data of participants from the U.K. Biobank of England, Scotland, and Wales who began the assessment without dementia. However, these participants all had either a stroke, heart attack, cardiometabolic diabetes, or a combination of the three. Throughout the duration of the study, it was revealed that those who had more than one of these heart conditions were even more likely to be at risk for dementia than people who had a genetic predisposition to the condition. 

Additionally, while those who were at a higher generic risk of dementia only experienced deterioration in one area of the brain, people with one or more of the above heart conditions experienced a broader impact of damage within the brain. This was revealed from brain scans of 12,000 of the 200,000 participants.

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The limitations.

As this is an observational study based on data from the U.K. Biobank, the authors of this study note that "the association between cardiometabolic multimorbidity and dementia risk cannot be taken as causal." Additionally, those within the Biobank cohort are also "more likely to be from less deprived areas and have fewer health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, than the general population," so an even wider-ranging study may reveal this risk to be even higher.

How you can support your heart health.

With all that being said, the study posits that "future interventions targeting cardiometabolic risk factors might, in turn, prove effective in preventing dementia, regardless of genetic predisposition." So, how can you support your own heart health?

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1. Get some sleep.

A study published earlier this year revealed that sleep ties directly to your cardiovascular wellness, with irregular sleep patterns affecting your heart health in the short and long term. Moral of the story: Try to set a consistent sleep and wake time each day to keep your heart well-being in check. Taking a high-quality sleep-supporting supplement may also be beneficial (here are our favorites).

2. Tailor your diet.

A plant-based diet has an array of wide-ranging health benefits, one of which is heart-health support.

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In fact, a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that in a group of 5,000 healthy adults, 289 of them had developed heart disease by the 32-year follow-up. Those who followed a plant-based diet, however, made up the 52% of people less likely to develop this disease. Even if you don't plan on giving up meat full time, having plant-based days or mornings can make all the difference when done consistently.

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3. Have a cup of coffee.

Your morning cup of coffee can actually help you out in more ways than just giving you a vital boost of energy each day. It's actually packed with antioxidants that, while not causally connected to improved heart health, seem to have a correlation to reduced risk of heart disease. Black coffee for the win!

The takeaway.

Taking care of your body in a holistic way is vital to preserving your overall health throughout the years, and outside of a genetic predisposition to dementia, you'll benefit from focusing on positive habits to keep strokes, diabetes, and heart attacks at bay. While dementia can stem from many causes, supporting your health wherever you can will make the aging process easier and keep your mind sharp, particularly with the tie between heart diseases and dementia.

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