Harvard Heart Letter

First rule of dementia prevention: Take care of your heart

There’s a growing awareness among cardiologists and neurologists that a combination of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries) and arteriosclerosis (stiffening of the arteries with age) is a major cause of mental decline. The term vascular cognitive impairment describes the entire disease process, from the first signs of impaired mental function to full-blown vascular dementia. Many if not all of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are also risk factors for vascular dementia; high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar appear especially relevant. There’s no treatment for vascular dementia, but controlling heart disease risk factors and remaining physically active may prevent it.
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