Poor Health in Midlife Leads to Brain Shrinkage

Poor Health in Midlife Leads to Brain Shrinkage
General Health

brainWe all know that health issues such as diabetes, obesity, elevated blood pressure and smoking put a tremendous strain on the body. However, findings from the Framingham Heart Study indicate that these ailments may also be linked to a reduction in brain size. This shocking finding was extracted from a study that has been ongoing in a Massachusetts town since 1948.

The 1,352 participants in the more recent study were the offspring of the original study participants, with an average age of 54. Risk factors were assessed during mid-life, and when the participants were between the ages of 61 and 67, their brain structure was studied using MRI scanning. They also underwent a series of cognitive tests to assess brain function.

The Aging Brain

The brain undergoes a number of changes as we age. Between the ages of 20 and 90 the brain loses an average of 5-10 percent of its weight, grooves widen and hard clusters of dying neurons form on the surface. Changes in chemical interactions cause cognitive challenges over time.

But the Framingham study showed that diet and lifestyle plays a rose in decreasing brain size; high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, obesity and smoking are all factors in brain health. The brains of people with the noted risk factors also had problems with thinking and dealing with a wide variety of things.

Lifestyle Changes

Research has already demonstrated that obesity, diabetes, hypertension and smoking all pave way for an everlasting health decline, Diabetes in particular is just one disease that has been found to contribute to brain shrinkage. Even slightly elevated blood sugar may have the negative effect.

The good news is that making lifestyle changes can reverse or at least decrease the risk of both brain shrinkage as well as damage to the cardiovascular system. Simply by managing your weight, not smoking, eating healthful foods and exercising, you can easily cut your risk of countless ailments.

As more and more physicians warn patients of the findings in the Framingham studies as well as of other known health complications from living an unhealthy lifestyle, it is hoped that people will take note and make the changes necessary to live a long and productive life.

Additional Sources:

LA Times