A healthy heart in your 20s may help cognitive abilities in later years

Wednesday 31st March 2021 06:56 EDT

A brand new study has possibly conveyed a connection between cardiovascular health and cognitive abilities. Young adults with risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure, obesity, or high blood sugar levels, may also have a higher risk for greater cognitive declines later in life. Addressing health issues or keeping them at bay through diet and exercise may also be good for the brain, the study reveals. The study was published online in the journal Neurology.

In a press release, study author Dr Kristine Yaffe, a cognitive aging and dementia researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, said the results from the study “are striking and suggest that early adulthood may be a critical time for the relationship between these health issues and late-life cognitive skills. It's possible that treating or modifying these health issues in early adulthood could prevent or reduce problems with thinking skills in later life.”

Yaffe and her colleagues pooled data from four other studies, which included a total of more than 15,000 adults 18 to 95 years old who were followed for 10 to 30 years. The studies included measurements of people's cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, fasting blood sugar level, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol. The scientists analysed the data to see whether cardiovascular problems in early adulthood, middle age, or later life were linked to greater declines in late-life scores on thinking and memory tests.

They found that people who had obesity, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar levels at any of the three life stages were more likely to have a greater decline in cognitive skills later in life. The link between these risk factors and late-life cognitive decline was greatest for younger adults, those in their 20s and 30s. The decline was 80 to 100 per cent greater than what was seen in people without these health issues.

Yaffe said, “With more young people developing diabetes and obesity in early adulthood, along with higher levels of underdiagnosed and undertreated cardiovascular problems, this could have significant public health implications for cognitive health in late life.”

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