Heart Health = Brain Health

One key to slowing aging in your brain is to keep your heart healthy.

According to a new observational study published this week in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, people whose hearts pumped less blood had brains that appeared older than the brains of people whose hearts pumped more blood. Using MRIs, researchers found that a decrease in the amount of blood pumped from the heart in relation to a person’s body size (a decrease in the cardiac index) was associated with decreased brain volume. A decrease in brain volume is considered a sign of brain aging, as the brain atrophies, as a person gets older.

The participants in the study with smaller brain volumes did not show clinical signs of diminished brain function, but the study’s lead author, Angela Jefferson, Ph.D., says the structural changes in the brain may be early evidence of a problem.

“Investigators will continue to follow these individuals to see how structural brain changes affect memory and cognitive abilities over time,” Jefferson says.
How heart function effects brain volume is not clear at this point, though researchers have several theories. “It is too early to dole out health advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain health go hand in hand,” Jefferson says.