Good Heart Health In 20s Linked To Better Brain Health Decades Later

AAN 2019 Abstract: Cardiovascular Health across Young Adulthood, Cerebral Autoregulation and Cognitive Function in Midlife

Today (Wednesday 26 February) scientists in the US have found that better heart health in a person’s 20s leads to better memory and thinking skills decades later. They presented their findings at the American Academy of Neurology 72nd annual meeting.

What did the researchers do?

The team of scientists studied 189 research volunteers over 30 years.The researchers measured how much the volunteers smoked, their BMI, and their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, over eight visits.

After 30 years the scientists also measured the study volunteers’ memory and thinking using a series of tests.

The results

Better heart health at the start of the study was associated with better memory and thinking 30 years later.The team also showed that this association existed even after taking account for social factors and education, which could have skewed the results.

What does our expert say?

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The health of our brain is closely linked to the health of our heart. Many studies have shown that high blood pressure is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that can be monitored and managed. However, while this research looked at people’s memory thinking skills as they aged, it did not look at who went on to develop dementia.

“While we know midlife is a key time to act, this research suggests that looking after our heart health even earlier in life could hold long-term benefits for memory and thinking skills. The full findings from this research haven’t yet been published and only with the full results will we understand their relevance.

“In addition to keeping physically fit, staying mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking within recommended guidelines and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to support a healthy brain as we get older.”