Cardiovascular disease prevention not just improves memory but attention as well

Cardiovascular disease prevention not just improves memory but attention as well

A team of American scientists have found that recommendations on a nutrition plan and physical activity, which are usually given for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, can also help in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. To do this, they conducted a long-term study, in which 160 people over 55 took part: for those who engaged in moderate physical activity for six months and followed a diet, the performance of executive functions (for example, memory and attention) improved, and the effect persisted through half a year.

In the process of the natural destruction of neurons, the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, in particular, dementia, increases with age. At the same time, cognitive dysfunctions observed outside these diseases are still more likely in old age: brain health, therefore, requires careful monitoring and timely prevention.

Medical recommendations can help, in fact not related to the health of the nervous system, but improving the general condition of the body. For example, with age, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases also increases, and doctors advise you to monitor blood pressure using a special diet, moderate exercise and enough rest. 

To check whether the recommendations prescribed to people at risk for developing heart and vascular diseases can also significantly affect cognitive functions, scientists decided under the leadership of James Blumenthal from Duke University. The study involved 160 volunteers over 55 years of age with cognitive impairment without diagnosed dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Each of them reported at least two risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases: high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and others. 

The participants were divided into four groups: the first was written out a nutrition plan for preventing high blood pressure and an exercise plan, the second – a nutrition plan without exercises, the third – only exercises, and the fourth group was a control. Physical activity included 35 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking or exercise bike) three times a week. Participants’ cognitive functions were assessed using standardized tests to assess memory, attention, and language abilities.

Participants had to complete medical recommendations within six months, after which they undergo examination and cognitive tests, and then return to their usual lifestyle for another six months – and undergo examinations again. During the first half of the year, scientists followed up with weekly phone calls to see if participants followed the recommendations.

Six months later, the most noticeable improvement in cognitive functions compared with the control group was observed among participants who were prescribed a diet and exercises (p = 0.012), although exercises alone also proved to be quite effective (p = 0.046) – unlike only the diet (p = 0.059). More interesting, however, is that this effect persisted (p <0.001) even after the participants no longer had to follow the recommendations of the doctors – that is, a year after the start of the study.

Scientists, therefore, have shown that the recommendations that are usually given to older people at risk for developing the cardiovascular disease can also be useful in preventing cognitive decline – and even a short follow-up seems to be enough to keep the effect Further.