Heart and lung health linked to healthy brain aging

Cardiorespiratory fitness, or the health of the lungs and heart, is obviously important in terms of longevity and physical well-being, but a recent study indicates that it may be responsible for much more than that. The study, published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, found a link between cardiorespiratory fitness and brain health in older adults, indicating that getting a good heart-healthy workout in regularly may preserve your brain as well as your body.

In this study, researchers looked at two groups of subjects, one between the ages of 18 and 31 and the other between 55 and 82. They had the two groups run on a treadmill while they made measurements of their cardiorespiratory fitness, then took MRI scans of their brains. They found that the more fit the hearts and lungs of the older group were, the greater the structural integrity in the white matter of their brains. The younger group, on the other hand, showed no association between brain health and cardiorespiratory fitness.

"We found that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with enhanced brain structure in older adults… physical activities that enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, such as walking, are inexpensive, accessible and could potentially improve quality of life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging independent function," said study author Scott Hayes, PhD, of the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System.

The researchers added that further research was necessary to determine exactly what types of exercise were linked to better brain structure and why this effect is found in older, but not younger, subjects.

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