These 3 Heart Conditions Can Raise Your Dementia Risk, Experts Say

Your heart and your brain are more connected than you might think.

Dementia is marked by the impairment of brain function, so you may be surprised to learn that your heart health, of all things, plays a role in your dementia risk. Experts say three cardiovascular conditions in particular can leave you vulnerable to dementia later in life, and that managing them may help you maintain your cognitive health. Read on to learn how your heart health could be putting you at risk for dementia—and how managing another aspect of your health can help keep your heart and your brain in tip-top shape.

READ THIS NEXT: If This Happens to You in the Bathroom, Get Checked for Heart Failure.

Your blood pressure affects your brain health.


Having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is considered an independent risk factor for dementia. In fact, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2014, a wealth of studies have concluded that people who experience high blood pressure in mid-life were more likely to develop vascular dementia—a condition caused by reduced blood flow to the brain—later in life.

"High blood pressure might lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia, the Mayo Clinic writes, adding the caveat that "more research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia."

READ THIS NEXT: Doing This at Night Hurts Your Heart, Experts Warn.

Atherosclerosis can contribute to the development of dementia.

worst things about being 40

Atherosclerosis is a condition related to high blood pressure which can also raise your risk of dementia, experts say. "High blood pressure causes a great deal of strain on the arteries over time, and this in turn causes the wall of the arteries to become thicker and stiffer as well as narrower. This is called arteriosclerosis," explains the Alzheimer's Society. "Fats found in the blood also contribute to the development of the narrowing of the arteries. This narrowing of the arteries can happen in the brain, causing a lack of essential nutrients and oxygen, which can damage brain cells and prevent them from functioning correctly."

High cholesterol raises your risk of cognitive decline.

heart attack after 40

High cholesterol is the third cardiovascular condition that could increase your risk of dementia, the Mayo Clinic warns. A 2019 study published in the journal JAMA Neurology found that genetics likely play a role in the connection between the two conditions.

The study built on previous research which has linked roughly 10 percent of early-onset Alzheimer's cases to a gene mutation known as APOE E4.  The researchers note that presence of this genetic mutation—widely considered the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease—was also associated with elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Managing your weight is good for your heart and your brain.

Heavy man measuring his waist

While obesity is not strictly considered a cardiovascular condition, the Mayo Clinic lists it as a fourth factor linking dementia and heart health.

Their experts advise that people with a high BMI should lose weight to lower their dementia risk, and even recommend a particular diet and exercise plan for best results. "Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia," their experts write. "And while no specific diet is known to reduce dementia risk, research indicates a greater incidence of dementia in people who eat an unhealthy diet compared with those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds." They add that exercising for 150 minutes—just two and a half hours—each week can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Speak with your doctor for more guidance on how to manage your weight and cardiovascular health.

READ THIS NEXT: 4 Ways Your Legs Are Telling You That Your Heart's In Trouble.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
Filed Under