ECONOMY

Healthier heart associated with better problem-solving and reaction time – study

P

eople with healthier heart structure and function appear to have better cognitive abilities, including increased capacity to solve logic problems and faster reaction times, a new study suggests.

It had previously been suggested that the brain is a target for damage from heart disease.

The risk factors leading to heart disease have also been associated with both vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia.

However, the mechanisms by which these associations occur are not well understood, and there had been no studies in large groups of people or those without disease.

With more research, these findings may help us to establish strategies for early prevention and reduce the burden of heart and brain disease in the future

The team assessed heart health using measures of anatomy and function obtained from MRI scans.

They analysed cognitive function using tests of fluid intelligence – the capacity to solve logic-based problems and reaction time.

Researchers found that in this large group of mostly healthy individuals, those with healthier heart structure and function performed significantly better in tests of cognitive ability.

Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, BHF clinical research Training Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Heart disease and dementia are important and growing public health problems, particularly in ageing populations.

“We already knew that patients with heart disease were more likely to have dementia, and vice versa, but we’ve now shown that these links between heart and brain health are also present in healthy people.

“We demonstrated for the first time, in a very large group of healthy people, that individuals with healthier heart structure and function have better cognitive performance.

“With more research, these findings may help us to establish strategies for early prevention and reduce the burden of heart and brain disease in the future.”

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