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A Strong Heart May Help You Maintain a Healthy Brain

Researchers from the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Boston University School of Medicine recently found that the key to a healthy brain may lie in a healthy heart.

Their study, which was published in the August 2010 issue of the journal Circulation, found a direct link between cardiac output (blood flow from the heart) and brain health.

The study included 1,500 people with an average age of 61. None of the participants had any serious cardiovascular problems, however, 10% of the participants were smokers, 9% had diabetes and 28% had high blood pressure.

The researchers performed MRI scans on all of the participants in order to assess their cardiac index and brain volume, a common measure of brain health. The cardiac index relates cardiac output to body size, and is a very good indicator of heart performance.

The researchers found that people with the highest cardiac index (those with the greatest blood flow from their heart) had significantly more brain volume then those within the lowest and middle range cardiac indices.

Participants with the lowest cardiac index actually showed an average of two more years of brain aging compared to those with the highest cardiac index.

These findings show that heart health and brain health may be very intimately connected, making it even more important to keep an eye on heart risk factors. The best way to promote heart health is by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, keeping an eye on high blood pressure and regularly exercising. This is especially important as we age as it may help stave off cognitive decline.

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