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Unhealthy living may age your brain
August 1st, 2011
06:39 PM ET

Unhealthy living may age your brain

Vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity  may cause the brain to age faster, possibly 10 years faster, according to a study published Monday in the journal Neurology.   Researchers found people with these risks factors had smaller brains and had diminished brain function later in life.

"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," says study author Dr. Charles DeCarli.  Eating healthy and exercising are important but if you develop hypertension and if you develop diabetes, the most important thing is to treat them, he adds.

Researchers looked at 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. If patients had previously experienced a stroke or dementia they were excluded.

Identifying and understanding these how these risk factors play a role in accelerating the aging process might make someone with hypertension,  for example,  more likely to seek treatment earlier, says DeCarli.

"People need to understand what they are setting themselves up for later in life," says Dr. Maria Carrillo, a senior director at the Alzheimer's Association. "Anything that actually compromises cardiovascular health has the potential for comprising their brain health."

"We (the Alzheimer's Association) do tell people they need to watch their weight and be physically active as early as one can and it's important to control these factors because they may impact their risk for Alzheimer's later in life."

DiCarli hopes this study brings attention to the importance of treating these vascular risk factors early.  "You talk to 70-year-olds and their biggest complaint is their brain's not working well," he says.

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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. fernace

    What does your brain need in order to thrive & in fact stay alive- oxygen! If you have a lifestyle that diminishes blood flow-oxygen to the brain, there will more than likely be reprecussions! A healthy lifestyle is the best defense against many diseses that are thought of as "age related"! The cliche' "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is more true than we give it credit for, therefore my diet of lots of fruit/veggies & water is going to usher me into a healthy & happy old age!!

    August 1, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Reaper

      You sound like a child. Good job.

      August 2, 2011 at 06:16 | Report abuse |
    • FrostKa

      And you sound like a jerk with no friends. Good job.

      August 2, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Roberts

      Food isn't going to change your genetics and if you really believe what you just claimed then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

      August 2, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
    • James

      Food won't fix genetic problems, but eating healthy can certainly make a difference.

      August 2, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  2. tjilpi

    what?

    August 2, 2011 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sanjay's daddy

    cocaine's a helluva drug......

    August 2, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charlie Murphy

      Hahahahaha@ Sanjay's Daddy

      August 2, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
    • john

      SLAP!

      August 2, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
  4. Dave262

    Aren't smoking and obesity the risk factors with high blood pressure and diabetes being the affects? Clearly identifying the risk factors is the first step in educating people they can control a lot of their present and future health on their own.

    August 2, 2011 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. WilfordBrimley

    If you or a loved one has diabeetus....

    August 2, 2011 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Conan the Librarian

    why not get real and factor in genetics? life style certainly will have an impact – but much of what you are going to experience later in life was programmed when you were conceived – and there is very little you can do to change that
    life is artificially prolonged as medicine has become a big business – a very big business
    nature has it's way of thinning out the herd if you will

    August 2, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anon

      Yes, but the human body is like any other piece of machinery. A beautiful car, top of the line engineering will be a pile of junk if the owner mistreats it. It started out good with good potential, but that is only part of the equation to keeping it running in old age. Same thing with the human body. We might have a tendency for some of these diseases, but I think often what is chalked up to genentics is simply bad eating and habits passed down through the generations.

      Besides, if nothing else, healthy diet and exercise help in the quality of life in the here and now. Try living off of junk like cheetos and soda pop and see how sluggish and cruddy you'll start to feel. I don't care HOW you look at it, it's simply a better way to live.

      And for God's sake, get off the crack!!!

      August 2, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
    • Done That

      Were you once employed by Hunton & Williams?

      August 2, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  7. The_Mick

    "People need to understand what they are setting themselves up for later in life," +++++ They also need to understand there are many ways to LEARN to combat unhealthy living. You can get no-nonsense good-health books about diet and exercise from the library or used from $0.01 + $3.99 shipping from that AMAZing ONline store. As we age we also need to adjust to the fact that we might need to find new ways to get our exercise. I was a runner and track and cross country coach and my pride made me determined to run again some day after Achilles' tendon problems, a resulting sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, and type-II diabetes. In May I found bicycling and in July had my best blood test in two years. It's so easy on your leg muscles and tendobs, yet you can get a good burn in your muscles as part of your workout.

    August 2, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dawn

    This is not new reports. It is a known fact that people who live a reckless lifestyle takes a toll on your body, physically, emotionally and mentally!

    August 2, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. amylynn

    ALL MEMORY LOSS AND BRAIN DISEASE IS FROM BLOOD SUGAR. A FILMMAKERS DIABETES DIET REVERSED DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS MARKERS IN THE BRAIN. THE COMMON LINK IS BLOOD SUGAR . A DIABETES DIET SAVES THE BRAIN
    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

    August 2, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Coriolana

    CNN, you actually PAID someone to write this crap?

    August 2, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daddy2010

      How exactly is it crap? Are you saying the information is incorrect?

      August 2, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @ Daddy2010, it is crap because any half wit already knows this and it's articles like this that dumb down Americans. Anyone reading this "crap" in other countries knows exactly what I'm talking about. You clearly don't read much here on CNN, because the churn this stuff out like a dairy farmer does butter. For another source of "crap", try nearly any article written by anyone at Yahoo!.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
  11. aubrie

    It would take the brain capacity of a slug not to know this... come on... this is common sense..

    August 2, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      No way, I thought high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity would have zero impact on my future health generally or the health of my mind.
      It's a good thing somebody spent the money and took the time to research this because I was so expecting my uncontrolled eating, drinking and smoking to work out for me long run.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  12. Captain Obvious

    I could have told you this!

    August 2, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. anon

    Well, there's a reason God banned certain foods from being eaten in the bible. At least I figure it was a God since folks had no way of knowing anything about heart disease back then when it came to things like pork. Everything banned from being eaten was later discovered by scientists to be unhealthy in some form or fashion that the people at the time had no way of knowing about or making a connection. Same thing with the condemnation of drunkards (liver disease). Some sky fairy just came down and told them. WEIRD!!

    August 2, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Chris

    Well at the same time, other factors must be included in your health routine. predispositions to cancers, and diseases will give you a better idea where to proceed from there. Not being naive about family health problems is a plus.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Steve

    Wow CNN, yet another brain dead story. Perhaps you should heed these warnings as you conttinue to churn out non-news that any half wit has figured out by now. Here's a though, just tell us CNN readers what you folks do as far as lifestyle, and we will do the opposite. It worked for George Costanza.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mary

    Wow. This story is a real "No-Brainer" please excuse the tired term. Only idiots would find this article to contain new information. John Boehner, for instance, might find that drinking your guts out is bad for you.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Done That

    Common sense that your parents should have taught.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Morgan Painter

    My friend from the seventhday advent church says his people have known this since about 1870. This is nothing new to them. Maybe I should take what he says more seriously. All of his family lived well in to their 80's and90's with clear sharp minds.

    Gotta be something to it that researchers and scientists are just now finding out.

    Sheesh 1870????

    August 2, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Brain

    As one ages, they need to take proper supplements. There is good book called "Better Brain Book" by Dr. Perlmutter, which explains this and also certain regimen for various brain diseases. My mom suddenly developed Dementia and providing these supplements helped her get out of that.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Liza

    Duh. This is news? You mean smoking and obesity are bad for you? I'm so enlightened!!!

    August 2, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Done That

    To Conan the Librarian: Did you used to work at Hunton & Williams?

    August 2, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. steeve-o

    Let's look at William Burroughs, who did every drug he could get his hands on, and died when he was 83. If he had never touched drugs, how long do you think he would've lived? My guess is probably 125.

    August 2, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. WellnessDrive

    Ah, yea. 🙂 How about what to do for longevity o rhow to optimize it now? Sure, quit the bad stuff. Lead a healthy lifestyle. But what else?

    We found many anti-aging and all-natural supplements that have helped to improve our health at WellnessDrive.com
    Such as Omega III, OPC-3, Prime HGH, and many more. Seriously, go on a WellnessDrive. We did and love it.

    August 2, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jujubeans

    My brain suffers because all of my blood is usually in another part of my body!

    August 3, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Will Yablome

    Eat, drink, and be merry, for in 20 years we will have dementia...hee hee!!

    August 3, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ellacarey

    Baby boomers, try an electric bike as a means of exercise and losing weight. http://bit.ly/mXGviO

    August 28, 2011 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.