In a study from Capital Medical University, scientists found maintaining excellent heart health may lower the risk of disease in the small vessels of the brain.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes the condition, known as cerebral small vessel disease, or CSVD.
Previous research has found CSVD contributes to about half of the dementia cases, a quarter of clot-caused strokes and most bleeding strokes.
In the current study, researchers looked at data from 3,067 older adults in Lishui, China.
The study team ranked each person’s heart health as “poor,” “intermediate” or “ideal” based on three medical factors (blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar) and four modifiable behaviors (not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy and being physically active).
Next, they compared heart health to brain MRI scans that looked for signs of CSVD, such as cerebral microbleeds—remnants of blood that has leaked out of small vessels—and lesions called white matter hyperintensities.
The researchers found people with ideal heart health had 26% lower odds of having CSVD than those with poor heart health.
The team says the findings were somewhat expected, since a healthy lifestyle can benefit both the arteries and the brain.
This suggests that in clinical practice, the target is to attain an ideal (cardiovascular health) score, not just an intermediate score.
Patients can use a simple self-measuring scale to adjust their lifestyle, assess the risk of CSVD and reduce their CSVD burden.
The team suggests people use the tool, now known as Life’s Essential 8, to find out their risk for heart disease.
In 2020, 7.1 million people worldwide died of a stroke, according to AHA statistics.
In the U.S., stroke ranks fifth among all causes of death, with more than 160,000 deaths in 2020, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alzheimer’s disease—the main cause of dementia—is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. An estimated 6.5 million people age 65 and older have the condition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
That number is expected to reach 12.7 million by 2050.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about common diabetes drugs spike heart attack risk, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about common symptoms of heart failure you need to know, and results showing watch for these potential heart problems after COVID-19.
The study was conducted by Yuesong Pan et al and published in the journal Stroke.
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