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Pick Up the Phone

It's clear that what's good for your heart is good for your brain. Cardiovascular wellness ensures sufficient blood flow to your brain and also keeps nerves healthy, says Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, director for research at the Rush Heart Center for Women and associate professor in the departments of neurological sciences and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago. All that contributes to strong neural connections. One common thread in the brain-heart connection: social ties. Research shows that loneliness is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and is a marker for Alzheimer's. "Loneliness is devastating," she says, adding that it leads to decreased physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, immune dysfunction and depression. On the flip side, "multiple studies show that staying socially and mentally active not only helps with overall brain health but also with the sense of well-being," she says. "Don't underestimate how important being socially connected in positive relationships can be." Reach out to loved ones daily.