A healthy heart key to healthy head!

London: Want to stave off dementia? All you need to do is to keep your heart healthy, says a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher.

Archana Singh-Manoux of the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France and colleagues from University College London have found that keeping one`s heart in a healthy condition is the key to avoiding dementia.

It had been widely acknowledged that the brain`s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension -- cognitive function -- did not start to deteriorate until at least the age of 60.

But, the researchers claim that dementia can strike its victims earlier than previously thought. Even people as young as 45 can start to suffer symptoms of the brain condition -- 15 years earlier than doctors believed.

However, boosting the heart`s health by eating well and taking regular exercise can delay onset of memory problems, helping to stave off the ravages of full-blown dementia which
currently has no cure, the `British Medical Journal` reported.

"There is emerging consensus that `what is good for our hearts is also good for our heads`, making aggressive control of behavioural and cardiovascular risk factors as early as possible key targets for clinical practice and public health.

"Cognitive decline is already evident in middle age (age 45 to 49). Life expectancy continues to increase and understanding cognitive ageing will be one of the challenges
of this century. Poor cognitive status is perhaps the single most disabling condition in old age," the researchers said.

Decline of the cognitive function -- the brain`s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension -- is a precursor to dementia conditions such as Alzheimer`s disease.

For their study, the researchers analysed more than 7,000 civil servants aged 45 to 70 over 10 years. Cognitive function was measured three times over the decade to assess memory, vocabulary, hearing and visual comprehension skills.

In men, there was a 3.6 per cent drop in reasoning after 10 years among those aged 45 to 49 at the start of the study and 9.6 per cent among those aged 65 to 70. In women, the
decline was 3.6 per cent and 7.4 per cent in the same age groups respectively.

The researchers concluded that targeting patients who suffer from one or more risk factors for heart disease, like obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, can not only protect their hearts but safeguard them from dementia later.

However, experts are not fully convinced.

Dr Anne Corbett of the Alzheimer`s Society said: "The study does not tell us whether any of these people went on to develop dementia. More research is now needed."

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer`s Research UK, added: "Although this study didn`t look at dementia, it`d be important to follow up these participants to see which people go on to develop the condition."