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How a Healthy Heart Can Help Lower Risk of Dementia

Following the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendations for reducing your risk for heart disease can also help keep you from developing dementia, according to French researchers who investigated the AHA’s guidelines. As reported by Time, those measures include not smoking, having a BMI under 25, getting regular exercise, having blood pressure under 120/80, keeping your total cholesterol under 200 and your blood sugar under 100, and eating fish twice a week, along with consuming fruits and vegetables at least three times a day.

What’s most interesting about each of these strategies is that in one way or another, they all tie in to your daily food intake. In other words, following a good food plan, coupled with exercise, can help you ward off heart disease and dementia. But what foods do you choose when you go to the store? To begin with, research has shown that the more vegetables you eat, the lower your risk of heart disease, with different types of vegetables protecting your heart through different mechanisms.

Leafy greens, for example, have high amounts of nitrates that naturally boost your nitric oxide (NO) level. Choosing vegetables that are rich in NO is crucial, as NO is an important biological signaling molecule that supports normal endothelial function and protects your mitochondria. A potent vasodilator, it also helps relax and widen your blood vessels, which improves blood flow.

Cruciferous veggies, on the other hand, lower your risk of stroke and heart attack by promoting more supple neck arteries and preventing the buildup of arterial plaque. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage — which are widely recognized for their anticancer benefits — also have a heart-healthy influence.

On average, studies show that those who eat at least three daily servings of cruciferous veggies have nearly 0.05 millimeters (mm) thinner carotid arterial walls (the artery in your neck) than those who eat two servings or less. Overall, each 10-gram daily serving of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a 0.8 percent reduction in carotid artery wall thickness.

And whether you’re talking about heart disease or dementia, remember that sugar consumption plays a huge part in both. Studies show that a high-sugar diet not only significantly raises your risk of dementia but is intricately tied to your risk for Alzheimer’s, as well.
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