Heart health related to problem-solving ability
Having a healthy ticker can really help people “get to the heart” of a problem.
It is increasingly clear that what is good for the heart is good for the mind, with a healthy lifestyle that benefits both the brain and the cardiovascular system.
Scientists at Queen Mary University in London have now revealed that having a healthy heart can help people solve problems.
The team analyzed more than 29,000 “mostly healthy” people with an average age of 63 years.
“Better cognitive performance” on 13 verbal and mathematical “reasoning questions” were linked to better cardiac MRI results.
“We already knew that heart disease patients were more likely to have dementia, and vice versa, but we have now shown that these links between heart and brain health are also present in healthy people,” said Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh.
“We have shown for the first time, in a very large group of healthy people, that people with healthier heart structure and function have better cognitive performance.
“With more research, these findings may help us establish early prevention strategies and reduce the burden of heart and brain disease in the future.”
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The heart and brain are thought to interact, with cardiovascular disease being linked to cognitive decline. Treating heart disease has also been shown to slow the progression of dementia.
To find out more, scientists at Queen Mary analyzed participants in the UK biobank study.
The participants’ cardiac MRI scans were compared to their “fluid intelligence”.
Results, published in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging, reveal better cognitive performance was associated with greater volume in the participants’ left and right ventricles. Large volume suggests that the heart is able to pump more blood through the body.
These participants also had a higher “stroke volume” – the amount of blood ejected with each heartbeat – and left ventricular mass. Low mass is linked to cardiovascular complications and death.
“Aortic distensibility” – a measure of the stiffness of the aorta, the largest artery in the body – was also “greater” in those who performed better on cognitive tests.
The results remained the same after scientists took into account other factors that could affect cardiovascular health, such as high blood pressure, a previous heart attack, and heavy drinking.
While it is not known why the heart and brain appear to be linked, the two organs could deteriorate with age.
Thickened blood vessels and a buildup of plaque in the arteries can also affect both organs.
Studies have also shown that proteins that accumulate abnormally in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease can also accumulate in heart muscle.
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