Better heart health at midlife could reduce risk of stroke, dementia

Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

In a study from the University of Minnesota, scientists found good heart health at midlife promotes better brain health and can help reduce the risk for stroke and dementia.

They found that improving heart health in midlife and beyond was linked to a lower prevalence of stroke and dementia risk factors around two decades later.

A large body of research shows the same risk factors that contribute to heart disease – such as carrying too much weight, not being physically active or having high blood pressure – also contribute to cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke and dementia.

However, there is less data about how changes in heart health in midlife and beyond may affect a person’s risk for brain disease as they age.

In the study, the researchers used health data for 1,638 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, collected twice in midlife (at average ages of 53 and 59) and once in late life (at an average age of 76).

The team found people who had higher cardiovascular health scores in midlife and late life, or whose scores rose within midlife and from midlife to late life, had a lower prevalence of stroke and dementia risks.

Every one-point increase in the score reduced the overall risk for cerebrovascular damage by roughly 7%.

The study did not look at how improvements in individual components of the score affected brain damage.

But it did look at how changes in overall heart health affected some of the elements of brain vascular health.

The team found from midlife to late life, those who maintained ideal cardiovascular health – who had the highest scores – had 33% lower odds of brain microbleeds and 37% lower odds of having infarcts” compared to people whose scores declined.

The findings suggest that people can prevent a lot of brain damage by following measures for good heart health.

Future studies can dig deeper into which components of heart health have the most impact on brain health.

If you care about heart attacks, please read studies that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day may protect your heart, and she retired from playing football at 41, and had a heart attack at 43.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about How vitamin K helps protect the heart, reduce blood clots and death risk and results showing that Omega-3 fats may lower risk of irregular heart rhythm.

The study was conducted by Sanaz Sedaghat et al and presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

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