Poor heart health could predict premature brain aging

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

In a study from UCL, scientists found that by estimating people’s brain age from MRI scans using machine learning, they could identify risk factors for a prematurely aging brain.

They found that worse heart health at age 36 predicted a higher brain age later in life, while men also tended to have older brains than women of the same age.

A higher brain age was linked to slightly worse scores on cognitive tests, and also predicted increased brain shrinkage (atrophy) over the following two years.

This suggests it could be an important clinical marker for people at risk of cognitive decline or other brain-related ill health.

In the study, the team applied an established MRI-based machine learning model to estimate the brain age of members of the Alzheimer’s Research UK-funded Insight 46 study.

As the participants had been a part of the study throughout their lives, the researchers were able to compare their current brain ages to various factors from across the life course.

The participants were all between 69 and 72 years old, but their estimated brain ages ranged from 46 to 93.

The team found they were able to explain roughly one-third of the variability in brain age by reviewing various factors from across the life course.

People with worse heart health at age 36 or 69 had worse brain health, as did those with increased heart disease on MRI (relating to blood flow and blood vessels in the brain).

This aligns with a previous study finding that high blood pressure at age 36 predicted poorer brain health late in life.

The researchers also found that higher brain age was associated with a higher concentration of neurofilament light protein (NfL) in the blood.

NfL elevation is thought to arise due to nerve cell damage and is increasingly being recognized as a useful marker of neurodegeneration.

The study did not identify any associations between childhood cognitive function, education level, or socioeconomic status, and a prematurely aging brain.

The researchers hope this technique could one day be a useful tool for identifying people at risk of accelerated aging, so that they may be offered early, targeted prevention strategies to improve their brain health.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about cannabis and heart attack, and common heart attack treatment has damaging effects.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how to reverse heart failure with diet, and results showing the benefits of rosemary for brain function.

The study was conducted by Professor Jonathan Schott et al and published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Copyright © 2022 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.