Heart attacks are scary, and they happen when the blood can’t get to a part of the heart and it starts to damage it.
Many people know that having a heart attack can affect the heart and the body, but recent research shows it might also make our brains age faster, particularly affecting our memory and thinking skills.
When the Heart Skips a Beat
A heart attack, often called a myocardial infarction by doctors, is a serious event. The heart needs blood to work properly, and sometimes, things like clots stop the blood from getting where it needs to go.
When a part of the heart doesn’t get enough blood, it gets damaged, and that’s a heart attack.
Every year, around 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. Many are experiencing it for the first time, while others might have had one before.
It’s known that a healthy heart is important for a healthy body, but how might a heart attack affect the brain and our thinking abilities? Let’s dive into a recent study that looked into this.
A Closer Look at the Research
Michelle Johansen, a doctor and researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and her team decided to explore how having a heart attack might relate to our brain’s health and our ability to think and remember things.
They looked at information from 30,465 people between 1971 and 2019, gathered from different studies.
They specifically wanted to understand how people, who had a heart attack, did on thinking and memory tests compared to those who hadn’t.
To keep things simple, they scored people’s thinking and memory abilities with points. More points meant better thinking and memory.
The team found that people who had a heart attack didn’t immediately do worse on these tests. But, over several years, their scores did start to drop faster than people who hadn’t had a heart attack.
This drop was equal to aging about six to thirteen years in terms of thinking and memory skills! So, while one might not notice changes right away, over time, a heart attack seems to be linked with faster aging of the brain.
Why This Matters for Everyone
These findings aren’t just important for doctors and scientists, they matter for all of us. The idea that taking care of our hearts might also help keep our brains sharp as we age is exciting and valuable.
Heart health might not just be about avoiding another heart attack—it might be a key part to maintaining our brain health and ensuring our memory and thinking stay as strong as possible for as long as possible.
So, what can we all do with this information? Keeping our hearts healthy is a start!
That means watching our blood pressure, keeping cholesterol levels in check, and trying to live a heart-healthy lifestyle with good food and regular exercise. It’s also crucial to manage stress effectively and to quit unhealthy habits like smoking.
It’s worth noting that studies like these don’t prove that heart attacks cause the brain to age faster. But they do show a link and give scientists a new path to explore further.
Dr. Johansen and her team hope to figure out more about how heart health and brain health are connected in the future.
In the meantime, this research provides yet another reason for all of us to keep our hearts as healthy as possible. Our minds, memories, and future selves might just thank us for it.
And while scientists keep exploring these connections, we can all benefit from understanding how our bodies might be interconnected in ways we’re still working to fully understand.
Exploring the heart-brain connection further might unravel more mysteries about how our bodies work and age. Moreover, discovering more about these links could pave the way for new strategies to keep our minds and bodies healthy for longer, ensuring quality life as we age.
With heart attacks being a common occurrence, understanding all its consequences helps to build a foundation for better healthcare approaches in the future. Remember: a healthy heart could signify a healthy, functioning brain!
If you care about brain health, please read studies about inflammation that may actually slow down cognitive decline in older people, and low vitamin D may speed up cognitive decline.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about 9 unhealthy habits that damage your brain, and results showing this stuff in cannabis may protect aging brain, treat Alzheimer’s.
The research findings can be found in JAMA Neurology.
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