Protect Your Heart for Your Brain’s Sake

An unhealthy heart could accelerate brain aging by decades!

That’s one of the main findings in a recent study from researchers at the Vanderbilt Medical Center. They examined the connection between blood flow to the brain and cardiac index (a measurement of how well the heart pumps) in 314 older adults. Not surprisingly, they found that people with lower cardiac index had reduced brain blood flow. But they also noticed that this was especially true in the temporal lobe—a part of the brain responsible for memory.

Scientists have known for a while that heart function and brain blood flow decline as we age, but this is the first evidence for just how connected those events are. In fact, these researchers were able to put a number on it; they found that for people roughly the same age, those with lower cardiac index had a decrease in brain blood flow equivalent to what happens during 10-20 years of aging.

So, protecting your heart can go a long way towards protecting the rest of your body. And the best way to increase blood flow to your brain? No surprise: it’s exercise.

Tom LaRocca

Tom LaRocca, Ph.D., is a research associate and instructor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.