A healthy heart leads to increased brain power

Here’s another good reason to take care of your heart: cardiovascular fitness is linked to cognitive function, according to a recent study. An analysis of over 32,000 British people reveals that a healthy heart leads to better brain power, including stronger problem-solving abilities and faster reaction times. This goes beyond the risk of disease later in life. 

Studies have shown that female heart attack survivors are twice as likely to see declines in memory and cognitive ability. Other studies have also shown the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease in the brain may also accumulate and cause disease in the heart muscle.

Researchers examined mostly healthy individuals and tracked their heart health using MRI scans. Problem-solving tests and reaction times were used to track cognitive function.

“Heart disease and dementia are important and growing public health problems, particularly in aging populations. We already knew that patients with heart disease were more likely to have dementia, and vice versa, but we’ve now shown that these links between heart and brain health are also present in healthy people,” said Dr. Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, at Queen Mary University of London in a statement.

The team considered that links between heart and brain health may be related to risk factors like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. However, they found this did not provide a complete explanation. This suggests, according to the team that included the University of Oxford, that there may be other interactions between the heart and brain that may have yet to be discovered.

“We demonstrated for the first time, in a very large group of healthy people, that individuals with healthier heart structure and function have better cognitive performance. With more research, these findings may help us to establish strategies for early prevention and reduce the burden of heart and brain disease in the future,” added Dr. Raisi-Estabragh.

The research was published in the European Heart Journal Cardiovascular Imaging.

Report by South West News Service writer Joe Morgan.

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