London: Keeping your heart fit can help slow
down the ageing of your brain, scientists claim.
Researchers at the Boston University found that healthy
people with sluggish hearts that pumped out less blood had
"older" brains that could raise their risk of dementia.
The team which looked at 1,500 people observed that the
brain shrinks as it ages, but a poor cardiac output ages the
brain by nearly two years on average, the BBC reported.
According to the researchers, the link was not only seen
in elderly people with heart disease, but also found in
younger people in their 30s who did not have cardiac problems.
Dr Angela Jefferson, who led the study, said: "The
observation that nearly a third of the entire sample has low
cardiac index and that lower cardiac index is related to
smaller brain volume is concerning and requires further
The participants with smaller brain volumes on magnetic
resonance imaging did not show obvious clinical signs of
reduced brain function.
But the researchers said the shrinkage may be an early
sign that something is wrong. More severe shrinkage or atrophy
occurs with dementia.
Dr Jefferson said there were several theories for why
reduced cardiac index -- how much blood the heart pumps out
relative to body size -- might affect brain health.
For example, a lower volume of blood pumping from the
heart might reduce flow to the brain, providing less oxygen
and fewer nutrients needed for brain cells.
However, the researchers said more research is required
to better understand the links between cardiovascular disease
and brain structure and function.
"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," she said.
The study has been appeared in the journal Circulation.