According to Dr. Gauthier, “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…the hardening may contribute to cognitive changes that occur during a similar time frame.” Simply, Dr. Gauthier believes that as we age it becomes increasingly difficult for blood to reach the brain, disrupting normal brain function.
To test this hypothesis, Dr. Gauthier and her fellow researchers studied a group of adults ages 18-30 and a group of older adults ages 55-75. Both groups underwent physical and mental tests in addition to three MRI scans which measured blood flow to the brain, brain activity during the mental test and stiffness of the aorta. The researchers focused on the aorta since this vessel carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, including the brain.
Ultimately, the study helped to confirm that a healthy lifestyle, incorporating aerobic exercise, helps to maintain the elasticity of the aorta, thereby preserving blood flow and cognitive abilities as we age.
To read more about this study visit Medical News Today.
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