Heart and Brain Health
Linked - Alzheimer's Disease Risk can be Lowered by Exercise and Mental
Lower Risk by
Heart health and brain health are associated with each other, according
to a multi-Institute collaboration of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) published online today in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of
the Alzheimer's Association. It may be possible to maintain brain
health as we age by making good lifestyle choices, such as exercise,
learning new things and staying socially connected.
From the public health perspective, the researchers believe that by
controlling cardiovascular (CV) risk factors we can help maintain “brain
health”. These factors include reducing blood pressure, reducing
weight, reducing cholesterol, treating (or preferably avoiding)
diabetes, and not smoking.
Committee chair Hugh Hendrie, MB, ChB, DSc, said “Based on our review of
CV risk factors, the link between hypertension and cognitive decline was
the most robust across studies.” He is a professor in the Department of
Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine.
They found a close correlation between physical activity and brain
health. According to an Alzheimer’s Association press release “Three
separate, large-scale, observational studies examined by the committee
found that elders who exercise are less likely to experience cognitive
decline. However, they caution that more research is needed before
specific recommendations can be made about which types of exercise and
how much exercise is beneficial.” The authors point out that exercise
is an inexpensive preventative treatment.
"We found surprising consistency across the studies," committee member
Marilyn Albert, PhD said. “In particular, we found that well known risk
factors for heart disease also are risk factors for cognitive decline,
and that physical activity may reduce risk for cognitive decline and
dementia in older adults." Marilyn is Director of the Division of
Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine and Immediate Past Chair of the
Alzheimer's Association Medical & Scientific Advisory Council.
Other protective factors included a higher education level, higher
socio-economic status, emotional support, better initial performance on
cognitive tests, better lung capacity, more physical exercise, moderate
alcohol use, and use of vitamin supplements.
Although genetic influences are poorly understood at present, other
factors such as social disengagement and a depressed mood, have been
found to be associated with declining cognitive and emotional health
late in life. Increased mental activity throughout life, such as
learning new things, may also benefit brain health.
Best Syndication Staff Writer
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