The benefits of a healthy heart are well documented, but you may not have expected this.
A new study just released in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that a healthy heart may also mean a healthy brain.
Researchers looked at whether meeting certain markers of a healthy heart—including not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active, having a good diet and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check—had an impact on people’s cognitive abilities.
The researchers found that having more of the healthy heart factors was linked to better brain processing years later. It was also associated with less decline in functions like memory and executive functions like time management and focus.
Researchers boiled down some of the key links between heart health and brain health and found:
- Having more ideal cardiovascular health factors was associated with better brain processing speed at the initial assessment.
- The association was strongest among non-smokers, who have ideal fasting glucose and ideal weight.
- Having more cardiovascular health factors was associated with less decline over time in processing speed, memory, and executive functioning.
- Executive function in the brain is associated with focusing, time management and other cognitive skills.
According to an online report by MedicalNewsToday.com, “As we age, certain areas of the brain shrink, causing some individuals to experience a decline in cognitive skills, including learning, memory, planning and other complex mental tasks. While we are unable to stop the aging process in order to protect cognitive functioning, previous studies have suggested that healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular physical activity, can help.”
Fox News quoted the study’s lead author Hannah Gardener, a neurology researcher at the University of Miami Medical School, as saying, “Our findings reinforce current recommendations for cardiovascular disease prevention but suggest that they may also promote cognitive health.”
Now, before you run right out and start exercising, understand that researchers admit more studies are needed to better understand the health connection between the heart and the brain. That said, this is sure to generate some interesting conversations moving forward.
Let’s start some of those conversations right here. Let us know what you think about the study and about the link between heart health and the health of the brain. These are the types of topics we want to sink our teeth into as we continue to pursue our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!