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What Your Heart Health at Age 50 Says About Your Dementia Risk

Learn about a 2019 study that found a link between indicators of heart health and dementia risk, and how to reduce the risk.

Lauren SmithPreeti Parikh, MD
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Preeti Parikh, MD
Published on January 22, 2021

Dementia can be a devastating disease. For years, doctors weren’t sure what caused it. In fact, many people thought it was just a normal part of aging. However, new research suggests your heart health may provide a clue about your future dementia risk.

About the Study

A 2019 study in BMJ measured people’s heart health at age 50. There were almost 8,000 participants included in the study. The researchers measured things like:

  • Smoking status

  • Blood pressure

  • Cholesterol levels

  • Blood sugar levels

  • Physical activity levels

  • Diet

  • Body mass index

Based on these measurements, the researchers then ranked each participant’s heart health as “poor,” “intermediate,” or “optimal.”

After 25 years, the researchers followed up with the participants to see who had developed dementia.

Dementia Risk: The Study Results

The researchers found that those with “poor” heart health at age 50 were more likely to have developed dementia by the end of the study. Plus, those who had “intermediate” or “optimal” heart health scores had larger brain volumes in the follow-up study. Loss of brain tissue is one of the signs of mental decline and dementia.

Previous research found similar results. For example, it is believed that dementia may result from damage to brain cells over time. This damage affects the brain cells’ ability to function normally. One of the things your brain cells need is healthy blood blow. If your heart and blood vessels aren’t healthy, this will affect your blood flow and possibly damage your brain cells.

What does this mean? Making heart-healthy lifestyle choices may help keep your brain healthy and strong as you age. Learn more about preserving brain health as you age here.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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