February 12, 2008 / 2:28 PM / 12 years ago

Attention to heart health good for the brain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A recent survey found that two out of three African Americans worry about developing heart disease and two out of five are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s disease, yet only one in 20 are aware that heart health is linked to brain health.

February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, and the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, are teaming up to educate African Americans on how to manage heart health to promote brain health.

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” Dr. Jennifer Manly, spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.

“African Americans should be aware that there is building evidence that older adults whose hearts are healthy tend to live longer with healthy brain function,” Manly added in comments to Reuters Health. Manly is with the G.H. Sergievsky Center and the Taub Institute for Research in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease at Columbia University, New York.

Compared to the general public, African Americans have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other cardiovascular complications, which could lead to a higher risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Manly said African Americans can help to improve their heart health and cognitive function by “partnering with their doctor and watching their numbers; keep blood pressure below 120/80 millimeters of mercury, fasting blood sugar less than 100 milligrams per deciliter, cholesterol below 200 milligrams per deciliter, and maintain a body weight in the recommended range.”

Healthy lifestyle choices will also help African Americans improve their heart and brain health. African Americans who are physically and mentally active, maintain their social connections, reduce fat and cholesterol in their diet, and don’t smoke may lower their risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, the researcher emphasized.

For more information about the links between heart health and brain health, Manly suggests visiting www.alz.org/heartbrain and signing up for a free Healthy Heart and Brain Kit, which includes a pedometer while supplies last.

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