NEWS Mental Health News Managing Kids' Weight and Blood Pressure Linked to Better Brain Health By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Published on May 20, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Daniella Amato Fact checked by Daniella Amato Daniella Amato is a biomedical scientist and fact-checker with expertise in pharmaceuticals and clinical research. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Key Takeaways By middle age, cardiovascular risk factors as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity from childhood were associated with reduced memory, learning, visual processing, attention span, and reaction and movement time. Strategies to guard against heart disease and stroke should be reinforced early on to promote better brain health in middle age. As people age, brain health can become an increasing concern. A recently published study in Circulation has demonstrated links between cardiovascular risk factors in childhood through middle age and poorer brain health in middle age in a study of only White participants. While brain health is often taken more seriously later in life, this research bodes well for the implementation of preventative measures from a young age to address concerns such as high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, etc, with healthy eating and regular movement. This research supports the promotion of healthy behaviors from childhood to support brain health later in life but needs to be considered alongside the impacts of rampant oppression on physical and mental wellbeing for the sake of folx who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled, etc. What the Research Tells Us This longitudinal study began with 3596 children, aged 3–18 years in Finland, who were repeatedly followed for 31 years to assess how cardiovascular risk factors from a young age may impact brain health. For this research that started in 1980, follow-up studies were conducted for the whole group over the course of 31 years. Each interaction involved checking the participant's vitals as well as a cognitive assessment to determine correlation. While there was no baseline measure of cognitive functioning or any BIPOC individuals in this research, its main strength remains a large-scale randomly selected population-based cohort, with a follow-up period of over 30 years. 5 Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain Taking Preventative Measures Early On The Chair of the Department of Pediatric Cardiology at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Cara Garofalo, MD, says, "When it comes to cardiovascular risk factors, we know that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity in adults have been linked, not only to heart disease but also to disease affecting other organs including the brain." Cara Garofalo, MD When it comes to cardiovascular risk factors, we know that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity in adults have been linked, not only to heart disease but also to disease affecting other organs including the brain. — Cara Garofalo, MD Garofalo explains that cognitive function is an important but complicated indicator of brain health as many different variables can affect cognitive function, and it is difficult to tease out a definite cause and effect link. The researchers have acknowledged this as they present data associating cardiovascular risk factors in childhood with cognitive function in middle age. Studies like these should empower parents to foster healthy eating and exercise habits in their children to help maintain optimal brain function later in life. The younger kids learn the importance of good nutrition, the more likely they will be to carry healthy habits with them into adulthood. 7 Brain Exercises to Strengthen Your Mind Putting This Study in Perspective Sabrina Sarro, LMSW says "Cardiovascular health is important and access to good heart and body care is a human right. We must speak about how race, access, and oppression are related to heart and body health. We cannot talk about one without talking about the other." Sarro says that folx must take into consideration how racism and race inform cardiovascular health, as factors such as stress, ability, and class all impact this. The social determinants of health need to be part of how recommendations are implemented given how forces of oppression can limit the ability to take appropriate measures to manage health concerns. Sabrina Sarro, LMSW We cannot begin to talk about the mind, body, or spirit without first contextualizing racism. — Sabrina Sarro, LMSW What This Means For You Cardiovascular risk factors from childhood to middle age can have a negative impact on brain health in later life. While it is well advised to try to address such concerns as high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol if able, more needs to be done at the larger societal levels to address such forces of oppression like white supremacy, poverty, ableism, etc.Until marginalization is tackled as the public health issue it has always been, equitable health outcomes will remain challenging for those who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, etc. The Wise Old Age of… 35? New Study Suggests Brain Power Peaks Early 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Hakala J, Pahkala K, Juonala M et al. Cardiovascular Risk Factor Trajectories Since Childhood and Cognitive Performance in Midlife: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. Circulation. 2021. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.120.052358 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.