Smoking, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes are all classic factors that not only influence cardio-vascular health, but also brain changes and structure that can lead to dementia. This is demonstrated by a study conducted by the Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology of the University of Edinburgh (UK) and published in the “European Heart Journal”.
A LARGE STUDY TO ANALYZE DIFFERENT RISK FACTORS
The study included close to 10 thousand individuals, aged between 44 and 79, who were enrolled in the UK Biobank: one of the largest samples of individuals undergoing brain magnetic resonance imaging. The data obtained was analyzed and crossed with their health information and medical records. All images of the participant’s brain structure were scanned using a single scanter located in Cheadle (Manchester). The majority of the participants were from the North West region of the UK and all images of the participants’ brain structure were scanned by a single scanner located in Cheadle (Manchester).
The researchers sought to uncover the link between brain structure and one or more cardiovascular risk factors: obesity, diabetes, smoking, hypertension, high pulse pressure, and high cholesterol. It was found that all these factors, except hypercholesterolemia, were related to problems in the blood supply to the brain, with a potential decrease in blood supply and abnormal changes in brain structure in participants with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
IMPROVE OUR HABITS TO PROTECT THE BRAIN
Furthermore, the more cardiovascular risk factors, the less optimal brain health. In this regard, the scholars have found anatomical evidence of brain reduction at the level of the gray matter (3% less) and damage to the white matter (one and a half times less healthy) for those who had a high cardiovascular risk, compared to those with a lower risk. Areas of the brain commonly linked to complex activities, such as thinking skills, can deteriorate during the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The same risk factors for heart disease seem to affect brain health, regardless of age.
Experts state that there are certain genetic factors we cannot change, but all other risk factors are modifiable and often related to lifestyle. As a result, we can intervene through healthy eating habits, combined with physical activity, to slow down cognitive aging and preserve brain health. The aim of the study is to include individuals over 79 and analyze their respective brain magnetic resonances and cognitive tests to better understand the mechanisms through which various cardiovascular risk factors affect certain areas of the brain.
“Smoking, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and Obesity Each Linked to Unhealthy Brains” – European Heart Journal (Mar 2019)