This week, a study from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease that proves a connection between stiffness of the aorta and dementia. The study states that aortic stiffness is a risk indicator for dementia modifiable by individual's into old age, meaning a person can reduce their risk with positive lifestyle interventions even late into life.
For the last 15 years, researchers have been studying 356 older adults (average age, 78) and have concluded that maintaining healthy levels of arterial stiffness can reduce an individual's risk for dementia. The study is receiving a lot of attention from the media and may finally push aortic stiffness into the mainstream conscious and help people to recognize the importance of this valuable health metric.
What is aortic stiffness?
Aortic stiffness is stiffening in the aorta (the largest artery in the body running from the chest to the pelvis) and is a product of aging, poor nutrition, high stress, unfitness/sedentary living, and a generally unhealthy lifestyle.
Generalized as arterial stiffness (a reference to stiffness of not only the aorta but all of the body's arteries), aortic stiffness is a more specific term that refers only to that of the largest blood vessel in the body. As unhealthy choices are perpetuated over time, the aorta will stiffen and lose elasticity; a vital part of its ability to deliver blood and oxygen to the organs efficiently.
The aorta runs directly in front of the spinal column, and aortic stiffness is closely connected to spinal stiffness. The spine works in unison with the circulatory system to transport vital fluids around the body and with each breath internal pressure changes drive spinal fluid up towards the brain. As the aorta stiffens, each pulse wave travels faster through it and causes damage to blood vessels around the body - a problem that can lead to dementia.
With increased aortic stiffness, all of our internal organs suffer and their performance decreases. Fortunately we have a lot of control in this department and with healthy lifestyle choices can slow down or even reverse, as proven by the new study, our level of aortic stiffness.
How can I improve aortic stiffness?
To best understand aortic stiffness a holistic approach must be taken. A balanced, healthy lifestyle that includes a mixture of good nutrition, physical exercise, and stress/mental health management will all contribute to the reduction of arterial stiffness and increase the likelihood of living a long life free of potentially fatal diseases like dementia and stroke.
It can seem overwhelming to think about having to optimize lifestyle in each of these departments, but in reality these changes can be quite small and still show drastic improvements to health.
Knowledge is power and testing your level of aortic stiffness regularly will help you learn if you are taking the right steps to improve internal health and reduce risk for disease. iHeart Internal Age™ was developed to empower individual's to monitor and improve their own level of aortic stiffness, which is translated by the app into Internal Age. Backed by various studies that prove the aorta as an indicator of our overall organ health and risk of death from all causes, the iHeart Internal Age™ fingertip device and mobile app bring aortic stiffness monitoring into the home for the first time ever.
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We've written numerous blog posts around this subject, all of which can be found on our website or linked below. We recently also published a free eBook titled How To Lower Your Internal Age™.