Healthy Habits Equal a Healthy Heart AND a Healthy Mind

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • You've heard or read over and over that you have to eat right and exercise to keep your heart healthy. Well, not only do unhealthy habits impact your heart they also affect your brain.


    French researchers studied 5,123 men and women over a 17-year period of time. Participants with the greatest number of unhealthy behaviors were three times more likely to have poor thinking abilities and twice as likely to have memory problems compared to those living healthier lifestyles.


    There are four lifestyle factors associated with negative health effects:

    • Low intake of fruits and vegetables - less than two servings of fruits and vegetables each day
    • Lack of physical activity
    • Tobacco use
    • No alcohol - compared to moderate alcohol intake

    The study assessed men and women at three different average ages - 44-years-old, 56-years-old, and 61-years-old. These different ages were considered to represent early midlife, midlife, and late midlife respectively. Participants unhealthy behaviors were scored on a zero to four scale based on number. These scores were then compared to cognitive ability at the different age stages.

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    Smokers had the lowest memory, verbal, and math-related thinking scores and reasoning skills at each of the three ages.


    Researchers concluded that both duration of unhealthy behaviors and number of unhealthy behaviors affect cognitive function in later life.


    What can you do?


    Take steps to protect your cognitive abilities, while protecting your heart at the same time.


    If you smoke, stop.


    Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to at least 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet recommends closer to 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to promote lower blood pressure levels.


    Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.


    If you don't consume alcohol, don't start. If you do enjoy and occasional drink, keep it in moderation - 1 drink daily for women, 2 drinks daily for men.


    You can access the free ecourse 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure at


    "American Journal of Epidemiology." Health Behaviors From Early to Late Midlife as Predictors of Cognitive Function. May-June 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>."

Published On: March 25, 2012