Study links early heart health with cognitive function later in life

It turns out that taking steps to keep your heart healthy as a young adult could pay off in the form of cognitive benefits down the road. According to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, heart-healthy habits in your 20s yield brain health benefits as you age. 

In the study, researchers analyzed data from 15,000 adults, ages 18 to 95, who were monitored for 10 to 30 years. They found that individuals who experienced obesity, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar levels early in life had 80 to 100 percent more cognitive decline as older adults. The results held steady even when the researchers accounted for other cognitive factors such as sex and education. 

More research must be done to find the root of this phenomenon. For example, high cholesterol did not seem to be linked with cognitive decline like other heart health factors were, so researchers still have questions about why the correlation exists. Despite lingering questions, the study does offer a roadmap to brain protection by emphasizing cardiovascular health. 

Many adults don’t even think about heart health until they start to reach middle age, but this research indicates that adopting heart-healthy habits early in life could be extremely beneficial for preventing cognitive decline such as dementia. Study author Dr. Kristine Yaffe says, “It’s possible that treating or modifying these [heart health] issues in early adulthood could prevent or reduce problems with thinking skills in later life.” If you want to learn more about heart health, check out these articles on diet and exercise for a healthy heart.

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