Healthy hearts help protect from cognitive impairment
Washington: A new study claims that improving our heart's strength by exercising could protect our minds from losing its sanity as we age.
According to the researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institut universitaire de geratrie de Montreal Research Centre, the arteries in human bodies stiffen with age, and the vessel hardening is believed to begin in the aorta, which is the main vessel coming out of the heart before reaching the brain.
The researchers worked with 31 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and 54 older participants aged between 55 and 75, which enabled the team to compare the older participants within their peer group and against the younger group who obviously have not begun the aging processes in question.
The participants were healthy both physically and mentally, and their fitness was tested by exhausting them on a workout machine and determining their maximum oxygen intake over a 30 second period. Their cognitive abilities were assessed with the Stroop task, which was a scientifically validated test that involved asking someone to identify the ink colour of a colour word that is printed in a different colour.
The participants undertook three MRI scans: one to evaluate the blood flow to the brain, one to measure their brain activity as they performed the Stroop task, and one to actually look at the physical state of their aorta. The researchers were interested in the brain's blood flow, as poorer cardiovascular health is associated with a faster pulse wave, at each heartbeat which in turn could cause damage to the brain's smaller blood vessels.
The results demonstrated age-related declines in executive function, aortic elasticity and cardiorespiratory fitness, a link between vascular health and brain function, and a positive association between aerobic fitness and brain function.