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That may be why we so often focus on the risks that come along with plaque-filled arteries, elevated lousy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and high blood pressure — stroke, heart attack, brain dysfunction, depression and a lousy sex life. But let's look at it from the other side.

Having a healthy heart bestows an endless stream of benefits — ones that let you enjoy a longer, healthier life. Here's a look at exciting info that'll show you just how much you can gain from eating heart-friendly foods, exercising, getting the right amount of sleep and managing your stress response — the keys to heart health.

When your heart is healthy, your mental acuity improves. A new study in the European Heart Journal Cardiovascular Imaging looked at the link between a healthy heart and a sharp brain — especially the ability to solve logic-based problems and have a quick reaction time. Around 32,000 participants were monitored with MRIs and cognition tests. Researchers found that folks who had more flexible (healthier) blood vessels and stronger heart function (blood flow in and out) did significantly better on tests of cognitive ability.

Maintain a healthy blood pressure and you can dodge vascular dementia. A healthy blood pressure (ideal is 115/75) may prevent you from having a series of small, "silent" or "mini" strokes that lead to memory loss, slowed thinking and personality changes.

Keep your blood flowing and heart pumping normally and you'll have more energy and breathe better. When arteries are narrowed and stiff or your heart muscle is weak, you don't get the oxygen you need throughout your body to maintain your energy or breathe well. Exercise becomes more difficult (or impossible). But studies show that if you have a healthy heart into your 70s and 80s, there is no reason you cannot continue to enjoy sports, exercise classes and work around the house — all essential ways to live younger longer.

A healthy heart supports healthy kidneys. The heart and the kidneys work closely together. In fact, heart disease can cause chronic kidney disease by increasing the blood pressure in the main vein connected to your kidneys. That then reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the kidneys and causes organ damage.

You'll sleep better when your heart is healthy. According to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, even elevated lousy LDL cholesterol can interfere with sleep by boosting bodywide inflammation that leads to chronic tendon pain around joints and in your arms and legs. Heart failure can cause labored breathing and chest pain or discomfort, leading to chronic sleep problems. And having a heart attack causes many people anxiety that interferes with a good night's sleep (and a robust recovery).

It's also true for kids. If you help your teen maintain a healthy heart and avoid becoming overweight/obese by setting a good example with the foods you eat and serve and your encouragement of daily physical activity, you can help prevent them from having a stroke when they're adults. A study in the journal Stroke found that being overweight or obese in late adolescence is associated with a significantly higher risk of stroke in men and women under age 50. Compared with participants in the low-normal BMI group, adolescents who were in the overweight category had a two-times higher stroke risk before the age of 50, and adolescents with obesity had a 3.4-times higher risk.

So take care of your heart — and your kids' — and it will take good care of you both for decades to come.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c)2021 Michael Roizen, M.D.

and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

King Features Syndicate

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