Keeping Our Hearts Healthy
Keeping our hearts healthy can help our brains stay healthy too. It can protect us from strokes and dementia, which are diseases that affect our brain.
But is it too late to start taking care of our hearts if we are already adults? According to new research, the answer is “no.”
The Study: Heart Health and Brain Health
The study was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Dallas. It found that taking better care of our hearts in midlife and later can lower the risk of stroke and dementia.
This is good news because it means we can start taking care of our hearts at any age and it can still make a difference.
Sanaz Sedaghat, the lead author of the study, says that even small improvements can have an effect. Sanaz is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.
Why Heart Health Matters
Previous studies have shown that the same things that can cause heart disease can also cause stroke and dementia. These include being overweight, not exercising, or having high blood pressure.
But there is less information on how changes in heart health in midlife and later can affect the risk of these diseases.
How They Conducted the Study
In the study, the researchers looked at health data from 1,638 people.
They collected the data twice when the participants were in their midlife (around 53 and 59 years old) and once when they were older (around 76 years old).
The researchers calculated cardiovascular health scores for the participants using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7.
This is a list of seven things that affect our heart and brain health. These include diet, exercise, weight, tobacco use, cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels.
The participants could get up to 2 points for each of these seven things. They got more points if they were closer to the target goals.
The researchers also took brain scans of the participants when they were older. They looked for signs of cerebrovascular disease, which can increase the risk of stroke or dementia.
Findings: Healthy Hearts, Healthy Brains
The researchers found out that people who had higher scores in midlife and later, or whose scores increased during these times, had fewer signs of cerebrovascular disease.
Every one-point increase in the score reduced the risk of cerebrovascular damage by about 7%.
“For me, the interesting part is even one point makes a big difference,” said Sedaghat.
Implications: What This Means for Us
This study shows that improving heart health can help prevent brain damage. Even just a one-point improvement can make a big difference. This means we should take care of our hearts to keep our brains healthy.
The researchers are planning to continue their study to find out which parts of heart health have the most effect on brain health.
Vladimir Hachinski, a professor at Western University in Canada, said, “If heart disease, stroke and dementia all develop because of the same set of risk factors, it only makes sense that we have to prevent them together.”
This study adds to growing evidence that shows the need for more cooperation between heart and brain health experts. It shows that it’s never too late to start taking care of our hearts to protect our brains.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and flu and COVID vaccines may increase heart disease risk.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that Vitamin D deficiency can increase heart disease risk, and results showing vitamin B6 linked to lower death risk in heart disease.
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