Healthy heart, healthy brain
Exercise. Eat right. Manage stress. It’s advice we’ve heard for years as the best prescription for building a strong heart. But there’s new evidence suggesting that the activities keeping your heart healthy may also keep your brain young.
Whether you’re pounding the pavement … hitting the gym … or pursuing another passion … exercise is something doctors say we should make a priority.
Mike Bancks, PhD, Epidemiologist is a researcher at Northwestern University specializing in cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“Our goal was to look in young individuals and see if your health behaviors or your cardiovascular health in young adulthood could set you on the right path for cerebral health,” Bancks explained.
Turns out, it does.
Bancks and his colleagues studied the health histories of more than five hundred people starting in their twenties and spanning 25 years. Scientists used seven heart-healthy steps as a guideline: body weight, smoking status, physical activity, diet, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.
Bancks says, “These are physical signs of damage to brain tissue.”
Then, they measured brain volume, looking for the amount of healthy grey and white matter, and unhealthy white matter. The Northwestern researchers are among the first to show that people who had better heart health scores in their twenties had better brain volume in middle age.
“We found that a one unit increment in score was associated with the equivalence of being one year younger in age on the brain,” continued Bancks.
Never too early to protect your heart and your head.
Professor Bancks says the top two health changes to make right now if you want to protect your heart and brain are number one, avoid smoking, and aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Bob Walko, Editor and Roque Correa, Videographer.