A new study from the University of Oxford and University College London shows that a healthy heart throughout life could reduce the risk of dementia in older age. The study found that by targeting arterial stiffening earlier in a person’s lifespan, the onset of dementia could be reduced.
Researchers analyzed data from 542 older adults who received two measurements of aortic stiffness at 64 years old and 68 years old for the study. All participants also had cognitive tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which assessed the size, connections, and blood supply of different brain regions.
Dr. Sana Suri spoke about the findings of the study, saying, “Our study links heart health with brain health, and gives us insights into the potential of reducing aortic stiffening to help maintain brain health in older ages. Reduced connectivity between different brain regions is an early marker of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Preventing these changes by reducing or slowing down the stiffening of our body’s large blood vessels may be one way to maintain brain health and memory as we grow older.”
Previous research has found that the body’s largest artery (the aorta) naturally become stiffer with age. But this new research has found that faster aortic stiffening from mid-life onwards was linked to poorer brain health markers. This included lower brain blood supply, reduced structural connectivity between different brain regions, and worse memory.
The number of people living with dementia is estimated to triple by the year 2050, so identifying ways to prevent or delay the condition could have significant economic and societal impact. With studies such as this, researchers can better understand the root cause of cognitive decline, including dementia.
A Change in Lifestyle
Experts believe that cognitive benefits could be seen by using some simple medical interventions and changes in lifestyle earlier in life. Some simple ways to help keep your heart healthy and reduce arterial stiffness include eating a healthy diet and engaging in daily exercise.
Also, if your blood pressure is high, there is a good chance your arteries are stiff. Researchers previously believed that stiff arteries were a consequence of high blood pressure. However, they are now questioning if they are actually a cause of high blood pressure. Either way, high blood pressure is a red flag if you are concerned about your arteries’ health. Be sure to follow a lifestyle pan that can help keep blood pressure down to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.