We know that the body functions as a unit; the neck turns the head, the muscles and ligaments move the arms, kidneys flush out toxins that could harm our body, etc. We also know that the heart provides blood and oxygen to the entire body and the brain sends signals to make our body move and react the way we want and need it to. But could there be a greater relation to the heart and brain than we thought?
Heart Health and Brain Health, What’s the Connection?
Several researchers from the University of Miami studied data from an ongoing study called the Northern Manhattan Study that is following white, blacks, and Hispanics in Washington Heights, NYC to further their knowledge of risk factors for stroke.
The NMS studied participants in their 60s and 70s and sought to find if small healthy habits might affect the brain directly or inversely. They followed up every six years with the same memory test to see what health changes had occurred and if it affected the results.
The researchers from UoM, headed by Hannah Gardener, assessed over 1,000 participants’ (from the NMS study) cardiovascular health according to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7. These seven health factors measure the participants’:
Healthy Blood Pressure
Sufficient Physical Activity
To assess the participants’ mental and brain health, Gardener’s team gave them tests on problem solving, mental agility, and judgment.
What the team found was that regardless of race, participants who scored higher on Life’s Simple 7, scored higher on the mental tests. Those who scored lower on Life’s Simple 7 scored lower on the mental tests.
After several years, the researchers performed a follow-up test on their participants to see if there was still a direct relationship between heart health and brain health. The results continued to show that the healthier a person lived, the better their mental health remained.
What This Means for Heart Health and Brain Health
Dr. Clinton Wright, the co-author on the study from the University of Miami, stated that it is extremely important to keep the executive function of the brain high as we age. The executive function of the brain is responsible for the organizational aspects of our lives like keeping track of bills, cleaning the house, and running errands.
As we age, the tendency to forget to do those key tasks can be devastating. Money can be wasted and personal belongings can be taken away.
However, there is hope from this study that staying healthy according to the Life’s Simple 7 can mean that heart health and brain health will both work at a higher functioning rate than without a healthy lifestyle.