There is more evidence today that by taking care of your heart, you're helping to keep your brain healthy, too. A new study finds a link between hardened arteries and plaques in the brain that are a distinctive characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

"Arterial stiffness, which is a more basic functioning of the blood vessels and is associated with high blood pressure, but arterial stiffness is associated with the presence of these plaques in the brain," said Dr. Irene Katzan, who did not take part in the study but is a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic.

University of Pittsburgh researchers studied more than 90 people whose average age was 87.  They found people with beta-amyloid plaques in the brain were more likely to have high blood pressure and higher arterial stiffness.

In fact, researchers say arterial stiffness was highest in people who had plaques and brain lesions, which may speed the development of dementia. Researchers say the findings provide more evidence that cardiovascular health leads to a healthy brain.

Katzan agrees and says your best defense is to control risk factors like blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

"So, the things that are common in preventing a heart attack are also important to prevent a stroke and are also important to prevent memory loss and dementia," said Katzan.

Complete findings for this study are in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology.