With no known cure, researching what may lead to dementia in older adults is a high priority for scientists. Knowing what triggers dementia can help stop it from developing — and a new study has found that your heart rate could have something to do with it.
Dementia isn’t actually a specific disease but a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities. The most common symptoms include memory loss, especially as the condition progresses, and personality and behavioral changes. The fact that it’s not one singular disease makes it harder to study and find a cure. Scientists have instead been looking for triggers for the symptoms, and a new study out of Sweden has potentially linked a higher resting heart rate as a possible risk.
The study examined 2,147 participants all 60 years old or older living in Stockholm. Researchers followed these participants for up to 12 years by recording their resting heart rate and other conditions. In the end, they found that participants with a resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute (BPM) or higher had a 55 percent higher risk of dementia. This was directly compared to people with a heart rate of 60-69 BPM. The risk was still significant even when researchers accounted for any known heart diseases.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a resting heart rate between 60 to 100 BPM is considered healthy in adults. But the lower the number, the healthier your heart is. It’s not uncommon for some athletes to register a BPM in the 40s. On the other hand, people with high blood pressure often have a BPM of 80 or higher.
Yume Imahori, the study’s lead author, said that more testing is required to fully label a high resting heart rate as a cause of dementia, given that some participants may have had unknown heart conditions. But overall, Imahori is hopeful about the results of the story. “If we follow such patients’ cognitive function carefully and intervene early, the onset of dementia might be delayed, which can have a substantial impact on their quality of life,” Imahori said.
How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
While we’ll have to wait for a more definitive link, you could start lowering your risk of dementia right away by taking care of your heart health. The Cleveland Clinic has several tips on how to lower your heart rate, including being more active. The main reason a heart rate rises is due to a more sedentary lifestyle, where the heart doesn’t work as much. The stronger your heart becomes, the less it’ll have to work to keep your blood pumping, the lower your heart rate will be.
Another great tip is to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes blood to thicken, therefore making the heart’s job harder. Drinking plenty of water helps our blood flow much smoother. Caffeine is also a big factor in making our heart work harder, since it’s a stimulant. Cutting back on coffee and other caffeinated drinks will help keep your heart rate down.
It’s never too early to start!