Grade school-age children with better cardiovascular health may have better cognitive function, according to new research. Scientists are increasingly looking at the mind-body connection, including how heart health might affect brain function. Past studies of adults have linked poor cardiovascular health to a higher risk of cognitive decline, but there’s been little research on how heart health affects young brains.
The new research analyzed the health data of 987 children, ages 11 and 12, from 21 U.S. cities. The children took part in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, the largest long-term study of brain development and health in children in the United States.
Researchers measured participants cardiovascular health using a tool known as Life’s Essential 8, a checklist for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health. Developed by the American Heart Association, the list includes eating a healthy diet, not smoking, being physically active, getting enough sleep, keeping a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.