In a new study, researchers found unhealthy habits like smoking and chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are all linked to an unhealthy brain.
The conditions and unhealthy habits could harm the health of blood vessels.
The research was conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
In the current study, the team examined the links between heart disease risk factors the changes in the brain structure.
The risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high pulse pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. Obesity was measured by body mass index (BMI) and waist-hip ratio.
The researchers checked MRI scans of brains in 9,772 people, aged between 44 and 79. These people were from the UK Biobank study.
They found all risk factors expect high cholesterol were linked to greater brain shrinkage and less healthy grey matter and white matter.
Moreover, the strongest links between the risk factors and brain structure changes occurred in brain areas responsible for complex thinking skills, such as the frontal areas.
These areas are affected during the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The team explains that all these risk factors could cause complications in blood supply to the brain. They could reduce blood flow to the brain and lead to abnormal brain changes.
A higher vascular risk could mean poor brain health.
The findings suggest people should make lifestyle changes to improve their brain health and prevent cognitive aging.
It is much easier to change lifestyles than to change genetic code. Do it early may help prevent aging-related brain diseases.
The current study is the world’s largest single-scanner study that exams the links between vascular risk factors and structural brain imaging.
Future work will test the links between these risk factors and brain function changes, such as memory and thinking skill changes.
The team will also follower older participants in the study to see the role of risk factors in the decline of different types of cognitive skills and which brain areas will be influenced.
The lead author of the study is by Dr. Simon Cox, a senior research associate at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology.
The study is published in European Heart Journal.
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