A new study published in CIRCULATION on Aug 2, 2010 has correlated diminished heart function with accelerated brain aging. By comparing MRIs of the heart and brain, the authors found that poor heart function is associated with diminished brain volumes, an indicator of aging, especially in younger patients. Likewise, patients with normal heart function had a significantly higher total brain volume.
The authors hypothesized that reduced blood flow may contribute to brain injury by micro-vascular damage and other findings associated with Alzheimer disease.
It is no surprise that poor heart (“the motor of the body”) function, and responsible for fuelling the remainder of the body, has a profound effect on the organs it supplies with energy rich blood. The brain, as the largest consumer amongst all organs, is also the most sensitive to a diminished supply. Under the right circumstances most organs can be “shut down” for prolonged periods of time, but the brain suffers irreversible damage after only 10 minutes unless some extraordinary measures are taken.
The message here is less an observation of what appears to be an obvious conclusion than that prevention is always easier than repair. A healthy mind in a healthy body (Mens sana in corpore sano) was expressed in the 1st and early 2nd century AD. It took only 2000 years to prove a very old truth!
Cardiac Index Is Associated With Brain Aging. The Framingham Heart Study, Angela L. Jefferson et al, Circulation, Aug 2010; 122: 690 – 697.