Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain

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simple_sevenFollow the guidelines for maintaining a healthy heart and your memory might thank you for it down the road. In a study from Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, researchers followed 1,033 seniors for six years. At the study’s start, the seniors were tested for memory, thinking, and brain-processing speed. They also were evaluated for how closely they met the goals of “Life’s Simple Seven,” a list of heart-healthy habits created by the American Heart Association. None of the seniors met all seven goals and only 1% met six goals. Four percent met five of the goals, another 14% met four, 30% met three, 33% met two, and 15% met only one. The rest met none. At follow-up, the researchers found that the more of these seven habits the seniors had followed, the less deterioration in brain processing speed, memory, and executive function (i.e., ability to focus, organize, and time manage other cognitive skills). “The benefits of the heart health factors apply to all ages, and it is never too late to begin to make positive changes in lifestyle or make improvements in risk factors,” the researchers conclude.

In a study from Concordia University in Montreal, researchers found that for every flight of stairs people climbed each day, their brain age was more than half a year younger. Daily activity, even dancing or gardening, increases brain volume in memory centers and lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s by up to 50%, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Finally, seniors who maintain arteries clear of calcium buildup are at lower risk for both heart disease and dementia, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gardener H, Wright C, Dong C, et al: Ideal cardiovascular health and cognitive aging in Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of the American Heart Association 2016; March 16th.

Steffener J, Habeck C, O’Shea D, et al: Differences between chronological and brain age are related to education and self-reported physical activity. Neurobiology and Aging 2016; 40:138-144.

Raji C, Merrill D, Eyre H, et al: Longitudinal relationships between caloric expenditure and gray matter in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2016: March 11th.

Kuller L, Lopez O, Mackey R, et al: Subclinical cardiovascular disease and death, dementia, and coronary heart disease in patients 80+ years. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2016; 67:1013-1022.

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