A new study may give you another reason to boost your heart health. Research has found that a higher resting heart rate may be a risk factor for dementia.
The study followed participants for about 12 years. It found that people with a resting pulse of 80 beats or more per minute had a 55 percent higher risk of dementia than people who had a resting pulse between 60-69 beats per minute. Even after adjusting for other heart risks and diseases, the link remained.
While this study is interesting, there are things to consider. It shows that there could be a link; it does not prove that it is a cause. Also, there could have been underlying heart problems the researchers were unaware of. And, people who developed serious heart problems over the course of the study died and didn’t have time to develop dementia, throwing off the results.
The researchers thought the link could be several things. One of their suggestions was that the high pulse was a symptom of an unseen heart problem that caused dementia. Another theory was that stiffened arteries were the root cause. Another was that it was an imbalance in the nervous system and that the people were experiencing fight-or-flight symptoms even while at rest.
The study did have the benefit of being quite large. There were 2,147 subjects. On average, they were 70.6 years old, and 62 percent of them were women. They took people’s resting heart rates using a standard electrocardiogram and used the mini mental state exam to check their cognition. As that was controlled across the board, the data can be trusted. The question is how much that means practically. While there appears to be a link, it’s unclear what that means.
“We believe it would be valuable to explore if resting heart rate could identify patients with high dementia risk,” said the study’s lead author Yume Imahori of the Karolinska Institutet. “If we follow such patients’ cognitive function carefully and intervene early, the onset of dementia might be delayed, which can have a substantial impact on their quality of life.”
What this study does show is something we have long known. There is a link between heart health and the brain. Getting plenty of oxygen to the brain and having a healthy heart is important for cognition. Your resting heart rate can be improved at any point in your life and is essential for your heart health, overall health and brain. There is medication. You can also improve it through working out. While your heart pumps hard and fast during a workout, exercise makes your heart stronger and your pulse stronger and slower over time.
If you are concerned about your dementia or heart risks, talk to your doctor. They can discuss your medical and lifestyle options and help you make a plan that fits your needs and goals!