A healthier and fitter aorta means a better chance of retaining sharp mental skills and memory in older age.
You already know that being physically fit helps keep the brain healthy.
But a study from Swinburne’s Centre for Human Psychopharmacology reveals that, specifically, a fitter and more elastic aorta translates to better brain health and memory in older age.
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, known as one of the “great vessels.”
It sprouts from the heart and branches off into different directions to supply the body with blood, including the brain.
The study will appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Lead study author and PhD candidate Greg Kennedy points out that it’s unclear just how physical fitness is brain protective.
“A healthier, more elastic aorta is also theorised to protect cognitive function,” says Kennedy in the report, “by reducing the negative effects of excessive blood pressure on the brain.”
How the Study Was Done
• 73 women and 29 men, 60 to 90, who were living independently in senior care communities, participated in the study.
• The “six minute walk test” was used to assess their fitness.
• For the test, subjects walked back and forth between two points placed 10 meters apart – for six minutes.
• Some participants failed to last six minutes. The ones who did, however, were included in the analysis.
• The analysis was the evaluation of cognitive performance and arterial stiffness.
“People generally are less fit and have stiffer arteries as they age,” says Kennedy in the report, “which seems to explain the difference in memory ability that is usually attributed to getting older.”
What’s important to note is that only the current level of fitness was assessed, rather than long-term fitness.
Kennedy believes that long-term fitness may be a more accurate predictor of central arterial stiffness, though this specific investigation has not been carried out.
“The results of this study indicate that remaining as physically fit as possible, and monitoring central arterial health, may be an important, cost effective way to maintain our memory and other brain functions in older age,” says Kennedy in the report.