Heart and brain health appear to go hand in hand
Keeping your heart fit and strong
can slow down the ageing of your brain, according to US researchers.
A Boston University team found
healthy people with sluggish hearts that pumped out less blood had “older”
brains on scans than others.
Out of the 1,500 people studied,
the team observed that the brain shrinks as it ages.
A poor cardiac output aged the
brain by nearly two years on average, Circulation journal says.
The link was seen in younger people
in their 30s who did not have heart disease, as well as elderly people who did.
Lead researcher Dr. Angela
Jefferson said: “These participants are not sick people. A very small number
have heart disease. The observation that nearly a third of the entire sample
has low cardiac index and that lower cardiac index is related to smaller brain
volume is concerning and requires further study.”
The participants with smaller brain
volumes on magnetic resonance imaging did not show obvious clinical signs of
reduced brain function.
But the researchers say the
shrinkage may be an early sign that something is wrong.
Severe shrinkage with dementia
More severe shrinkage or atrophy
occurs with dementia.
Dr. Jefferson said there were
several theories for why reduced cardiac index – how much blood the heart pumps
out relative to body size – might affect brain health.
For example, a lower volume of
blood pumping from the heart might reduce flow to the brain, providing less
oxygen and fewer nutrients needed for brain cells.
“It is too early to dole out health
advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain
health go hand in hand,” she said.