Heart Health at 50 Linked to Brain Health Later

A large study in Britain saw that people with healthy hearts and brains at 50 were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with dementia by the age of 75. This find gives us even more reason to take care of our hearts!
Researchers studied almost 7,900 50-year-olds. Over 25 years, 347 people in the group were diagnosed with dementia. The researchers were looking at “Life’s Simple 7,” health factors. Those seven factors are: diet, exercise, smoking, cholesterol, BMI and blood sugar and pressure. Looking at these four behavioral and three biological factors, people can be scored on a zero to 14 scale. The higher your score is, the better. Scientists saw that people with good heart habits were diagnosed at a rate of 1.3 per 1,000. People with poor heart habits were diagnosed at a rate of 3.2 per 1,000. Additionally, a good score at 50 was linked to better brain and grey matter volumes at the age of 70, as seen by an MRI.
Dementia is a progressive disease that starts years before becoming symptomatic. The study isn’t perfect. The participants were self-reporting their behavior, so it might not be accurate. Moreover, the people who were diagnosed with dementia were more likely to be nonwhite, female and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. While the people with better health score and better outcomes were more likely to be white married men from higher educational and occupational groups. These factors weren’t considered while undoubtedly playing a role. Finally, this study may only show correlation, not causation. With almost 7,900 participants, the findings are significant, but it’s not the final word on a link between heart health and dementia.    
At 50, our future health is already being impacted, so it’s better to start healthy habits as soon as possible. The researchers wrote in a paper about their discovery, “Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets.” The good news is, if you fall at the lower end of the scale, the researchers saw that small improvements helped. People who didn’t radically change their behaviors but improved their habits over time were better off than people who remained stagnant in their actions over 25 years. Primordial prevention is a way of halting diseases before they start by removing risk factors. Quitting smoking, exercising more, taking care of your cholesterol can all aid your heart and help prevent dementia.
August 19, 2019

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