The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
Grade school–age children with better cardiovascular health may have better cognitive function, according to new research.
The 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.
Researchers looked at how the children’s cardiovascular health scores matched up with their scores from a comprehensive cognitive test. They found that children with better cardiovascular health behaviors—the checklist items related to diet, physical activity, tobacco and sleep—showed slightly better executive cognitive function. Those are the cognitive abilities that aren’t fully developed until early adulthood and include impulse control, focus, planning ahead, problem-solving and multitasking.
Better overall cardiovascular health that included all eight metrics also was associated with higher executive cognitive function.
“The message to pediatricians and cardiologists is that if you see children with high blood pressure or obesity, it’s important to look at their brain health as well,” said Dr. Augusto César F. De Moraes, the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental science at the Austin, Texas, campus of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.
The findings, which were presented Saturday in Philadelphia at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 conference, are considered preliminary until full results are published in a peer-reviewed journal.