Researchers found that healthy lifestyle helps maintain the elasticity of arteries, thereby preventing downstream cerebrovascular damage and resulting in preserved cognitive abilities in later life.
Our body’s arteries stiffen with age and the vessel hardening is believed to begin in the aorta – the main vessel coming out of the heart before reaching the brain.
“Indeed, the hardening may contribute to cognitive changes that occur during a similar time frame,” said lead researcher Claudine Gauthier from University of Montreal, Canada.
They found that older adults whose aortas were in a better condition and who had greater aerobic fitness performed better on a cognitive test.
“We think that the preservation of vessel elasticity may be one of the mechanisms that enables exercise to slow cognitive aging,” Gauthier added.
For the study, they worked with 31 young people between ages 18 and 30 and 54 older participants aged between 55 and 75.
This enabled the team to compare the older participants within their peer group and against the younger group who obviously have not begun the ageing processes in question.
The results demonstrated age-related declines in executive function, aortic elasticity and cardiorespiratory fitness, a link between vascular health and brain function, and a positive association between aerobic fitness and brain function.