If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even type 2 diabetes, you’ve probably been warned that these conditions could cause serious health issues, such as stroke or heart attack down the road.

But what you may not be aware of is that these conditions are affecting your body’s functions already. And it’s affecting the one organ that we all want to have in good shape.

According to a new research study, a link between heart health and cognitive strength has been found in individuals from as young as 35 years old.

The study shows that as the risk associated with heart disease rises, individuals experience a decline in cognitive function.

According to the lead author of the study and a fellow within the Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands, Hanneke Joosten, many people assume that they will struggle with the consequences of poor health habits such as smoking and bad diet only years down the line, but this isn’t the case.

Unhealthy habits affect you much sooner than you think. Joosten states that people understand that their habits might affect their heart health, but they fail to take their brain into account.

In his own words, “What’s bad for the heart is also bad for the brain.”

In order to conduct this research, 3778 people were studied between the ages of 35 to 82. The entire group was provided with cognitive function tests, ranging from their ability to reason and plan, as well as how comfortable they were in switching tasks. Another test was used to determine their memory functioning.

The Framingham Risk Score was then used to determine each individual’s cardiovascular-related risk over the period of the next 10 years.

Those who were found to be more at risk for heart disease were also found to perform 50% worse on the cognitive tests.

Some of the biggest contributors to the decline in cognitive health were diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and bad cholesterol.

Smokers with a 15-a-day habit had, on average, a 2.4 point drop in their cognitive scores, while those with a habit exceeding 16 a day dropped by 3.43.

The memory tests showed precisely the same results.

The study was published in “Stroke,” the journal of the American Heart Association.

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