Susan Lennon MSW, LCSW Content Strategist
Communications Consultant
Specializing in Thought Leadership and B2B/B2C Marketing Communications

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Keep Your Mind Sharp While Helping Your Heart
USA Weekend Magazine, September 18, 2005
by Susan T. Lennon

 The four factors that are bad for your heart – smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension – are also bad for your brain. “Surprisingly,” says Rachel Whitmer, PhD, lead author of a new study that followed almost 9,000 members of an HMO for an average of 30 years, “The clock starts ticking sooner than we thought for Alzheimer’s and other dementias – changes in the brain are already underway at middle age.” People in their early 40s who have all four factors more than double their chances of getting dementia – regardless of gender, race, or education.  

The good news? These risks are under your control. So, if you’re thinking about waiting until you’re in your 40s or 50s to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise, and clean up your diet, think again! Start young, and not only will you prevent cardiovascular disease, with its complications like stroke, you’ll also ward off the deterioration of brain processes that lead to dementia.

What if you only have one risk? Compared to someone with none of these factors, here’s how it breaks down:

Single Risk Factor at Mid-Life

Risk of Dementia in Later Life 

High blood pressure




High cholesterol




What to do? Consult a primary care doctor about your risk factors, and make appropriate dietary and lifestyle modifications. As Whitmer says, “Your heart and brain will thank you.”

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