Don’t let heart problems prematurely age your brain

Some of us may find the sentiment “it’s all connected” to be a little on the New Age-y side. But when it comes to the body, it really is true.

Take the brain, for example. We already know there’s a connection between the brain and gut, and that the health of one can influence the other. Studies have shown that kidney health can affect brain health as well.

And then there’s the heart. Researchers have found that cardiovascular issues like heart attack, atrial fibrillation, stroke and high blood pressure can have a direct impact on the development of dementia and other cognitive diseases.

Now, a U.K. study has provided even more evidence that the health of the heart and brain are inextricably linked….

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Bad heart health could age the brain

A team of researchers led by Professor Jonathan Schott of University College London (UCL) applied an MRI-based machine learning model to estimate brain age in members of the Insight 46 study. Participants in the Insight 46 study are taken from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) 1946 British Birth Cohort.

The participants were all between 69 and 72 years old. But according to the learning model, their estimated brain ages ranged from 46 to 93…

Since the participants had been part of the study throughout their lives, the researchers were able to compare their current brain ages to factors occurring at various points in their lifetimes. By doing so, they were able to account for roughly one-third of the variability in brain age.

They found…

  • People with worse cardiovascular health at ages 36 or 69 had worse brain health.
  • So did those whose MRIs showed increased cerebrovascular disease, a condition related to blood flow and blood vessels in the brain.
  • It also showed that men tend to have older brains than women of the same age.

These findings are in line with a previous study led by Schott that showed high blood pressure at age 36 predicted poorer brain health later in life.

Those with an older brain age had slightly worse scores on cognitive tests, and it predicted increased brain shrinkage over the following two years. This suggests brain age could be a key clinical marker for people at risk of cognitive decline or other brain-related health issues.

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The researchers also discovered a link between an older brain age and a higher concentration of neurofilament light protein (NfL) in the blood. Elevated NfL is believed to be a result of nerve cell damage and is increasingly being recognized as a sign of neurodegeneration.

Dr. Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, observes the Insight 46 study is revealing more about the complex relationship between the different things that influence people’s brain health throughout their life.

“We hope this technique could one day be a useful tool for identifying people at risk of accelerated aging, so that they may be offered early, targeted prevention strategies to improve their brain health,” Schott says.

Happy heart, happy brain

We’ve reported before on the one simple action you can take to protect both your brain and heart health: take a walk. Walking five miles a week has been shown to protect brain structure, and in another study almost-daily long-distance walking led to greater weight loss and better cardiovascular health.

Another activity found to help both heart and brain health is strength training. One study found that women with mild cognitive impairment experienced improved memory following weight training. And another study showed that weight training may reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

It’s also vitally important to get heart and brain supporting nutrients. There are two that fit this bill to a T, pulling double duty for both body parts:

Vitamin D: Multiple studies have shown that vitamin D is the vitamin that can help save your heart. Not only does vitamin D3 increase the level of nitric oxide in your blood to help support healthy blood flow and blood pressure, it also protects against oxidative stress in your cardiovascular system (damage caused by free radicals that accelerates the age of your cells). Put simply, D3 can help turn back the clock and keep your veins, arteries and heart young.

For brain health, the sunshine vitamin is a must-have as well if you want to avoid dementia. The most recent involved a study with almost 300,000 participants. According to the results, low vitamin D levels were linked with lower brain volume and an increased risk of dementia and stroke. And the genetic analyses supported the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency can cause dementia.

Omega-3 fatty acids also are a good nutrient to add to your diet to protect both heart and brain health. For the brain, omega-3s can help increase your gray matter, improve your mood and enhance mental performance. They can even reverse damage in the brain caused by bad diet. And for the heart, omega-3s can lower the risk for heart attack, coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death, as well as improve survival from heart attack.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!

Sources:

Poor heart health predicts premature brain ageing — UCL

Life course, genetic, and neuropathological associations with brain age in the 1946 British Birth Cohort: a population-based study — The Lancet Heathy Longevity

Why Weight Lifting Is Good for Heart Health — SelectHealth

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Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.