Stiff Arteries May Stifle Aging Mind

Study: Stiffer Arteries May Predict Decline in Mental Skills With Age

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 20, 2007

Nov. 20, 2007 -- How flexible are your arteries? It might make a difference in how sharp your mind stays with age.

A new study links stiffer arteries to lower memory and concentration test scores as adults age.

To make your arteries more flexible, go for a healthy lifestyle, suggest the researchers. They included Shari Waldstein, PhD, of the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.

Waldstein's team studied more than 1,700 Baltimore adults.

When the study started, participants were 57 years old, on average. They didn't have dementia and hadn't had a stroke.

Participants got their arterial stiffness checked and took mental skills tests. They repeated the mental skills tests at least once over the next 14 years.

Those with stiffer arteries at the study's start showed greater cognitive decline -- specifically, a bigger drop in memory and concentration test scores -- than people with more flexible arteries.

Those findings held when the researchers considered other factors including participants' age, sex, years of education, and heart problems.

But Waldstein and colleagues can't rule out the possibility that unmeasured factors may have affected the results.

Still, they see no reason not to go for a healthy lifestyle, including exercise (with your doctor's approval), to improve arterial flexibility. Flexible arteries are also better for blood pressure.

The findings appear in the advance online edition of Hypertension.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Waldstein, S. Hypertension, Nov. 19, 2007; advance online edition. News release, American Heart Association.

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