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Cardiovascular health can influence brain development in adolescents

A new study has revealed that there is a positive relationship between cardiovascular health and brain development in adolescents . According to research, behaviors beneficial to heart health — such as healthy eating, good quality sleep and physical activity — are advantageous for cognitive function and brain structure during early adolescence.

O studyled by Brazilian researcher Augusto César F. De Moraes, from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, in the United States, was published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity. The work analyzed data from 978 participants in the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (ABCD), focusing on the impact of cardiovascular health behaviors on neurocognitive development.

The study analyzed data from 978 study participants Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD), carried out in the United States since 2016 with a focus on the impact of cardiovascular health behaviors such as diet, physical activity, nicotine use and sleep health on neurocognitive development. Every year, children and adolescents answer questionnaires and, every two years, undergo exams that assess everything from weight and height to brain development, using magnetic resonance imaging.

In the current study, the objective was to verify whether cardiovascular health in adolescents was associated with brain health.

“In adults, we found that the main risk factor for stroke and the development of dementia is long-term high blood pressure. As we know, high blood pressure can develop from the intrauterine stage, perhaps, in these children who have better cardiovascular health, they will have better brain development. That’s why we carried out the study”, explains Moraes to CNN .

For the work, the researchers analyzed brain development using magnetic resonance imaging and compared them with tests that assessed cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure, glycated hemoglobin, blood glucose, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and lifestyle factors. life, such as sedentary lifestyle, sleep quality, diet and nicotine use.

Relationship between cardiovascular health and brain health

The findings indicate that adolescents with better cardiovascular health profile have greater executive cognitive function and greater total cerebral cortical volume . “We discovered that the more physical activity the teenager does, the higher the result on the cognitive-executive function test. We also found that the combination of four behaviors — not smoking, doing physical activity, eating well and sleeping well — is also related to the highest test result”, says Moraes.

Furthermore, the study also observed that the better the cardiovascular health factors — blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight — the better the results in cognitive-executive function tests, especially when combined with positive behavioral factors.

“This is multifactorial, but we know that for proper development of executive and, obviously, brain functions, you must sleep adequately. Sleep is directly related to the development of executive functions, because during it memories and learning crystallize. This also has a direct association with greater brain plasticity”, explains the researcher.

Cardiovascular health and dementia risk

According to Moraes, some brain microlesions that may be related to dementia begin to develop early in life, including childhood and adolescence. This is yet another reason to further investigate the relationship between cardiovascular and cognitive health among adolescents.

“This is associated with brain development and total brain cortical volume factors,” says the researcher. “In the study, we found that sleep is directly related to the total volume of the brain. So, the better the sleep — and, for teenagers, the ideal is to sleep between 8 and 10 hours a day — the greater the total brain volume,” he says.

With this finding, the study suggests that dementia prevention can begin as early as childhood and adolescence. “If we can prevent high blood pressure or promote better cardiovascular health, we will possibly have better neurocognitive development, which is what we are presenting in the study. This, in the future, is a preventive factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and other dementias”, he states.

Challenges to promoting better cardiovascular health among adolescents

In the view of the study authors, the implications of these findings are far-reaching and emphasize the need for public health initiatives that promote healthy lifestyle behaviors among young people. However, faced with childhood and adolescence more connected to screens and different technologies, this can represent a challenge.

“It is inevitable that people use technology nowadays. So, what we have to try to do is promote limited consumption”, comments Moraes. “Regarding sleep, experts recommend practicing sleep hygiene, so, 30 minutes before bed, dim the lights, have a set time to sleep and wake up. In relation to ultra-processed foods, a tip is to teach children and teenagers how to prepare healthy foods. And, obviously, promote physical activity”, suggests the researcher.

Time in front of screens is associated with worsening diet in teenagers

Source: CNN Brasil

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