A study recently published in the journal Neurology indicated that vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity may cause the brain to age faster than it should. It was found that people with these risk factors had significantly smaller brains and had decreased brain function later in life. Study author Dr. Charles DeCarli stated that “Vascular risk factors affect our brain’s and our ability to think even in middle life and we need to focus on treating these things if we are going to have a healthy mind and body,” and added that exercise and a healthy diet are crucial to maintaining brain function. It is also very important to get diseases such as hypertension and diabetes treated because leaving them untreated can be detrimental to brain health. For the study, researchers examined 1,352 people from the Framingham Offspring Study. Participants received body mass index measurements, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes tests, as well as brain MRI scans. The study found that people with several vascular risk factors had brains which aged up to ten years faster than they would in a healthy individual. The study author asserted that he hoped identifying and understanding how these risk factors play a role in aging the brain would cause people at risk to seek treatment earlier. “People need to understand what they are setting themselves up for later in life. Anything that actually compromises cardiovascular health has the potential for comprising their brain health,” said Dr. Maria Carrillo, a senior director at the Alzheimer’s Association. By being active and eating healthier as early as possible, people can help to reduce their risk for brain function decline later in life.

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