The Heart-Brain Connection

Leslie and I recently attended an event called, “Keeping Your Brain and Heart Healthy in 2013 and Beyond,” sponsored by The Judy Fund.  In addition to highlighting the connection between the mind and the heart, the salon focused on how Alzheimer’s research can be patterned after cardiovascular research.

Dr. Maria Carillo talked about the latest Alzheimer’s research. She explained that people typically aren’t diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia (or other forms of dementia) until symptoms persist.
Heart_Brain-PuzzleNow, similar to cardiovascular research, scientists are looking at biological markers – such as amyloid and tau proteins in the brain – to detect the disease before symptoms even appear.  There are currently 400 projects in 20 countries, all focusing on Alzheimer’s.  They are even studying people who have Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD), which means they inherited the gene from a parent.  In this particularly awful form of Alzheimer’s, the disease invariably strikes people in their 30s to 50s at the exact same age of parental onset.  Several brave people with FAD have agreed to join a study to compare three different anti-amyloid therapies to track them before and after the onset of Alzheimer’s.  Hopefully this research can lead to breakthroughs for all who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Next, Dr. Jill Kalman spoke of cardiovascular research.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and yet it does not have the same visibility as breast cancer or other typically female diseases.  Part of the problem is that women present differently than men when it comes to heart attacks and heart disease.  Although we still need to raise awareness about heart disease, it has been around long enough that scientists have been able to identify risk factors, the public can reduce the risk factors, and physicians can treat patients with those risk factors to minimize the disease’s impact.  This is the hope for the future of Alzheimer’s research and treatment.

Researchers haven’t yet identified risk factors for Alzheimer’s.  If you’re like me and are feeling a little helpless that we don’t yet know how to prevent Alzheimer’s, there is something you can do.  Follow these “7 Elements for Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease.”  The doctors emphasized that heart disease recommendations are lifestyle recommendations to potentially postpone Alzheimer’s, too.  What keeps our hearts healthy can also keep our brains healthy.

Seven Elements for Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease:
1.    Stop smoking.
2.    Maintain a healthy weight.
3.    Exercise.  Get moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3 times a week.
4.    Eat a healthy diet.  Make sure it’s rich in whole grains and high fibers, and eat fatty fishes 2-3 times per week.
5.    Manage your blood pressure.  120/80 is normal.  (If over 140/90, seek treatment.)
6.    Manage your cholesterol.  Your LDLs should be <100, and your HDLs should be >50.  (If LDLs are >160, seek treatment.)
7.    Manage your glucose.

Someday, we hope to share with you the “7 Elements for Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s Dementia.”  Stay tuned.


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