August 04, 2010
Brain Aging Rate Tied To Heart Pumping Output

People with stronger hearts appear to experience a slower rate of brain aging.

DALLAS, Aug. 2, 2010 Keep your heart healthy and you may slow down the aging of your brain, according to a new study reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the study, people whose hearts pumped less blood had brains that appeared older than the brains of those whose hearts pumped more blood. Decreased cardiac index, the amount of blood that pumps from the heart in relation to a person's body size, was associated with decreased brain volume using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

This might sound like bad news on first reading. But its not. Why? You can do something about it and it involves brain aging.

Brain aging is going to be the most problematic part of aging to reverse. For lots of body parts we are going to be able to just grow replacement parts. But we've got to find ways to rejuvenate all the cells in the brain. Much harder. So if we can improve the performance of other body parts initially thru diet and exercise and slow brain aging then that's great news.

The heart is an easier organ to rejuvenate because large groups of cells all do the same thing: contract. Replace some of them with new cells and performance will improve for the whole heart. Since we'll probably have ways to rejuvenate hearts before we can rejuvenate the brain it is good to know that the heart rejuvenation will also slow the rate of brain aging.

What else is interesting about this result: It illustrates how the overall process of body aging has all sorts of interdependencies. Decay of some organs accelerates the decay of other organs in a vicious cycle. So interventions that improve some parts will probably help other parts as well.

Update: If you wanted to improve your heart function thru exercise at home would you use a cross trainer, an exercise bike, a hybrid exercise bike, or other device? I ask because the daylight is pretty short for much of the year. When the days are longer it is easy to go jogging or hiking at the end of the work day. But in the fall the days become so short that all the daylight hours are taken by work. Then unless you want to go out in the dark outdoor daily exercise options become pretty limited. I'm looking for sustainable forms of cardio exercise.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 04 07:52 PM  Aging Brain Studies

William O. B'Livion said at August 5, 2010 12:10 AM:

I'd suggest considering a treadmill and setting up a treadmill desk that you can move out of the way and run for a while.

There are some advantages to doing impact exercises--IIRC it seems to help with bone density &&etc.

Also for *just* maintaining heart condition any sort of High Intensity Interval Training will stress the heart/lungs enough to do it. 15 minutes of 60 on, 30 off with kettle bells, or just doing 60 second rotations of pushups and body weight squats with a 30 second break (but you gotta do MAX EFFORT. If Puky the Clown ain't on your shoulder you ain't pushing hard enough) for 5-10 rounds will stress the heart enough AND get you the bone density gain.

The thing about the treadmill as opposed to an elliptical is that it trains the muscles you use. An exercise bike is similar, but you still have that problem of sitting.

Nick G said at August 5, 2010 10:41 AM:

It's interesting, but they make lots of leaps of logic.

For instance, brain size may be correlated with aging, but this appears to be a one-time observation, so how do they know that this was brain aging? We don't even know that the smaller observed brain size is a sign of pathology. There is some variation in brain size between people. The Framingham study is intended to be longitudinal: perhaps they need to add these tests to the standard battery of tests with which these people are followed. Then we might start learning something.

Similarly, why couldn't brain size affect pumping volume? A smaller brain might need less blood.

If this does show pathology, perhaps some kind of illness is affecting both heart and brain, reducing output in one and size in the other?

James Bowery said at August 5, 2010 11:04 AM:

Something I have never seen addressed is the interaction of knee joint inflammation from exercise and brain degeneration. This is particularly perverse because people who are even moderately overweight (most) and facing the onset of brain aging (most) often have to terminate cheap and easy exercises like jogging and even calisthenics because of the stress it puts on knee joints. Replacing knee joints when they fail isn't an answer to this problem because of the positive feedback aspect of inflammation and its effect on brain aging.

It may make sense for many to "walk to their weight" before working on core cardiovascular fitness.

sifter said at August 5, 2010 7:50 PM:

Any info on whether weight lifting (deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, etc) improves heart function as well?

Alan said at August 5, 2010 8:52 PM:

Jump rope. Burns more calories than just about any other cardio exercise. Strengthen heart and lungs, tone upper and lower body. Costs virtually nothing to get a good jump rope. Possible to jump indoors during bad weather.

CJS said at August 6, 2010 9:56 AM:

Tabata protocols with light(er) weights or bodyweight exercises. Kettlebells are a good option for the weights.

Gordon said at August 8, 2010 10:12 AM:

Agree with jump rope--cheap and basic and not all that easy. Also swimming if there's a pool available. Combine both and you've got upper and lower. Only thing is that, like running, the rope will get your knees sooner or later.

Sean said at August 8, 2010 10:14 AM:

I'm 51 and have had a torn meniscus "repaired" (It still hurts like hell) on one knee and I'm headed for the same on the other knee eventually. I run spairingly if at all (treadmill is less painful) and use a stairmaster fairly frequently without pain. Well, along with some motrin.

What I started doing a year ago and absolutely love is Mountain Biking. Not the downhill kamikaze style but trail riding. It's a HUGE workout. I'm completely wiped out when I finish but not a bit of knee pain.

Get some knee, elbow and padded hip/underwear and you'll be plenty protected from the falls you'll take if you're riding hard enough. It is so much more fun than road biking. Now that I'm doing MTB riding I get bored to tears when I have do any distance on the road.

I wish I'd started 10 years ago.

Crash said at August 8, 2010 10:28 AM:

Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower

Patrick said at August 8, 2010 10:45 AM:

It's pricey . . . but a Concept 2 Rower is the real deal. Do a tabata protocol (8 minutes of elapsed time, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) 16 times and . . . yeah . . .

Jump rope is good, but you can lollygag through single unders and doubleunders can take some real practice. OTOH it is very very cheap for the most part.

FitnessGeek said at August 8, 2010 10:53 AM:

Try P90X DVD but dial down to your level of fitness.

Karl K said at August 8, 2010 11:55 AM:

I am 58 and I am doing p90x -- 11th week of the 13 week program. Very intense, but I love it. I think the program can be modified if you have bad knees (I don't) but it would be tough. The resistance exercises can be completed with a couple of $15 resistance bands. I am now getting definition in my arms, triceps, and back muscles. Started doing 10 pushups, can now do 25. It's a commitment, but it works.

Anonrobt said at August 8, 2010 12:00 PM:

Water aerobics - gives you the muscle building and limbering without the knee problems...

Jimmy J. said at August 8, 2010 1:10 PM:

I'm 77. My knees won't take jogging anymore. Have been riding a stationery bike 3 times a week for an hour or more at each session. Some sessions I do intervals. Sometimes just long and slow (keeping my heart rate in the 60-70% of max range). Sometimes a long uphill style climb with a short easy portion at the end. Changing it up is important. The body quickly adapts to any exercise routine. I also do 3 days a week in the gym. Various routines that last four to five weeks. (The time the body takes to adapt to each one.) Low weights and high reps doing different body parts on different days is one routine. Heavy weights with low reps while concentrating on legs and core muscles is another. Right now I'm doing medium heavy weights with super slow reps going to failure on every exercise. It's a whole body workout done on Tues. and Sat. On Thurs. I do all core and balance exercises. In two weeks I'll switch to a new routine. If I feel like I'm overdoing it (getting run down), I take a day off from the bike here and there. I use a heart monitor to keep track of how hard I'm working and use it to guage rest times between sets. It works for me. Probably in almost as good a shape now as I was in my 60s. (I was competing in Masters Bodybuilding in my 60s)

Audacious Epigone said at August 15, 2010 5:52 PM:

As a warm up and in between sets I often use the treadmill but do not actually turn it on--I move the tread on my own. This is sort of akin to turning the wheel in your car with the power steering off. It offers heavy resistance and allows you to walk instead of run, eliminating the detriments of repetitive impact (and has the added SWPL bonus of being environmentally friendly!). At 70 degrees, you'll break into a good sweat in five minutes. It's worth giving a try.

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