Seniors who do what it takes to keep their hearts functioning at peak efficiency may also be doing their aging brains a favor.
Results of a University of Bordeaux study published in JAMA suggest that older adults with the best cardiovascular health are more likely than their less-fit counterparts to avoid cognitive decline. And even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
Researchers initially rated the heart health of 6,626 people over age 65 based on seven metrics: nonsmoking, physical activity, diet, cholesterol and glucose levels, body-mass index, and blood pressure. During the eight-year follow-up period, 12.7 percent of those with poor cardiovascular health (optimal levels of two or fewer of the metrics) were diagnosed with dementia, compared with only 7.9 percent of the heart-healthy participants (optimal levels of five to seven metrics).
Overall, the study found that the risk of dementia declined by 10 percent for every additional metric a participant achieved.
“What’s important here is that combining optimal cardiovascular metrics can reduce your risk of dementia,” lead study author Cécilia Samieri, PhD, told the New York Times. “You don’t have to be perfect, but each time you add a factor, you reduce your risk.”
Samieri, a professor of epidemiology, noted that heart disease and dementia share similar underlying causes, which would explain why caring for your heart may keep you thinking clearly well into your golden years.
This originally appeared as “Healthy Heart = Healthy Brain” in the March 2019 print issue of Experience Life.