Healthy Lungs = Strong Brain

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Healthy Lungs = Strong BrainA new health breakthrough shows that keeping your lungs healthy may be an important way to keep such mental abilities as problem-solving and processing speed strong as you age. A drop in lung health did not, however, have a link to impaired memory.

The facts come from a Swedish study that tracked patients for nearly two decades. Over time, it came to light that reduced pulmonary function could lead to cognitive losses. The reverse was not found to be true (a weakening mind affecting lung health).

Based on this, the researchers say that anything you can do to maintain lung function will help benefit your cognitive performance. Key ways to keep your lungs healthy include not smoking (obviously), exercising regularly, eating healthy, and limiting how much you are exposed to environmental pollutants.

The study included 832 adults between 50 and 85. Researchers measured how much air a person can push out of the lungs in one second, and the volume of air exhaled after a deep inhalation. Meanwhile, they measured the brain’s stored knowledge, memory, spatial abilities related to problem-solving, and processing speed (including the ability to write correct responses quickly).

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The results showed clear links between a decline in lung function and steeper losses in problem-solving and processing speed. Declines like this are expected as we grow older, but what we know now is that you can help prevent a slower processing speed in the brain by maintaining healthy lungs.

The cause, they speculate, is that reduced lung health could lower the availability of oxygen in the blood. This, in turn, affects chemicals that transmit signals between brain cells.

The study also shows insight into aging. It suggests that some aspects of functional decline contribute to other areas of decline. Here, it is weakening lungs causing a weakened mind. In addition, this study’s findings lead us to an even bigger question: what are the processes involved in aging?

In a different way, the study may have found a key reason as to why exercise and limiting toxic exposure can help slow down the aging process. If you want to keep sharp well into your twilight years, don’t take your lungs for granted.

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Sources for Today’s Articles:
Healthy Lungs = Strong Brain
Emery, C et al., “Pulmonary Function as a Cause of Cognitive Aging,” Psychological Science September 2012; 23: 1,024-1,032.