Ground-breaking research conducted by a group of U.S. scientists has uncovered a compelling link between heart and brain health. It appears that those who encountered heart-related concerns during their middle years, faced a higher risk of memory and thinking difficulties later in life.
Fostering a healthy heart from early adulthood could potentially postpone cognitive decline and contribute to overall brain health. Here, we explore what the research revealed and how keeping the heart healthy could protect your brain as you age.
30-year study reveals link between heart and brain health
Researchers looked at key findings from The CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. The CARDIA study began in 1985 and followed participants aged 18-30 for three decades. This was to determine if heart problems in middle age affected cognitive function in later life.
Over the years their memory and thinking abilities were periodically tested. Using MRI scans, researchers evaluated changes in the brain regions linked to cognitive decline.
The study involved a total of 3,146 participants, with 147 (5%) of them developing heart conditions such as stroke, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease. The average age for the first cardiovascular event was 48 years.
Those who experienced heart conditions in middle age demonstrated lower scores in memory and thinking tests, compared to those without heart conditions. Alterations in brain regions related to cognitive decline were also more prevalent among those with heart conditions.
How heart health links to brain health
Currently, it isn’t known why heart health issues during mid-life contribute towards poor brain health. It could be down to an accumulation of amyloid-B protein, which is known to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Alternatively, hormonal factors might play a role.
Certainly, it can be deduced that risk factors affecting our cardiovascular health, also impact our cognitive abilities and brain health. Therefore, by taking care of our heart health, we are also safeguarding our brain.
Tips for keeping your heart healthy
Maintaining a healthy heart involves various lifestyle choices, beginning with your diet. Opting for whole grains, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and seasoning with herbs instead of salt can all contribute to better heart health. Excessive salt intake is harmful to the heart, as the sodium it contains can elevate the risk of high blood pressure – a significant risk factor for heart disease.
Increasing physical activity can also help lower the chances of a heart attack. Moving more and setting small goals can help to get you more active and improve overall heart health. If you smoke, it is also vital to quit, and you should take steps to manage high cholesterol levels.
According to this latest research, taking care of your heart will help to reduce the risk of brain related health troubles later in life. However, if you do develop heart disease, there are effective treatments to help manage the condition. Book an appointment with leading cardiology consultant, Dr Konrad Grosser to determine the best treatment option.