In 1948, a long-term project began that has since become the longest-running study of heart disease. The participants in the Framingham Heart Study didn’t realize that they were taking part in a project that would also study their children and grandchildren! The researches created the phrase “risk factor” about someone’s likelihood of developing specific illnesses, in the early ’60s. They saw that many risk factors for heart disease were also risk factors for dementia.
In the mid-’70s, the research expanded with cognitive tests and brain scans to distinguish between disease and aging. This helped them focus their research more. The participants’ kids and grandkids helped the scientists determine the genetic links. And the study continues, in 2016, the researchers saw that the slowing rates of dementia coincided with the declining rates of heart disease.
The Framingham Heart Study has led to many other studies, all building off the work in their own ways. This month, a new study has yielded more evidence that brain and heart health are linked. (https://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20190617/heart-trouble-can-speed-brain-decline-study-finds#1) Almost 8,000 people, over the age of 49, were studied for 15 years for the research. The participants were in good health at the commencement of the research. About six percent of the people had a cardiac episode in the 15 years. The people who had these heart problems had more rapid mental decline than their peers. These researchers believe that the link might be that a heart problem can cause the brain to get less oxygen than it needs.
“Because there is no current cure for dementia, early detection and intervention are essential to delay the progression to dementia,” said the head researcher, Wuxiang Xie. And, Xie explained, because of the strong link between heart and brain problems, “Heart attack and angina patients need careful monitoring in the years following a diagnosis.”
Scientists reviewing the study said it all points to a very serious message. Doing Sudoku and puzzles aid healthy brain aging. But, exercise is needed for both the mind and body to stay healthy and keep supporting each other. Taking care of your heart and brain separately may help them take care of each other.