The health of our body and many systems in our body is tied directly to the health of our brains.
If our brains are damaged, it could negatively affect various functions in our body.
And while these links are important to know about, one of the top reasons to protect your brain is simply to enjoy the quality of your life.
Which is why it’s so important to do all you can to promote brain health and cognitive function.
The bad news is there’s new evidence indicating if you don’t get the inflammation under control it could damage your brain which may result in cognitive decline later in life.
Inflammation Could Result In Brain Damage
Inflammation unchecked could harm your brain was the conclusion of a recent report published by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.
Researchers at the University compiled data collected from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.
The study followed 12,336 people for 20 years.
At the beginning of the study, the researchers analyzed biomarkers for inflammation (these included fibrinogen, white blood cell count, von Willebrand factor, and factor VIII and C-reactive protein).
With those markers measured the scientists assigned an inflammation score to each participant they could compare against later.
At the start of the study, the researchers also rated the subject’s cognitive ability so they could have a baseline to compare against in the future. Within 6-9 years they followed up with the subjects to administer another test on cognitive function.
To control for factors that might affect a person’s cognition, which included education levels and other health conditions that might exist at the time of testing.
When a person had high levels of chronic inflammation at the start of the study, it resulted in an 8 percent steeper decline in cognitive ability compared with those who had the lowest inflammation levels.
Similarly, those who had the highest C-reactive protein levels saw a 12 percent steeper decline in mental ability.
Karen Walker, one of the researchers, wrote this about their conclusions.
“Overall, the additional change in thinking and memory skills associated with chronic inflammation was modest,” Walker explains, “but it was greater than what has been seen previously associated with high blood pressure in middle age.”
The researchers also showed that the cognitive decline affected the participants’ memory most severely and their language and planning to a lesser extent.
“Many of the processes that can lead to a decline in thinking and memory skills are believed to begin in middle age, and it is in middle age that they may also be most responsive to intervention.”
Was Inflammation Directly Involved in Cognitive Decline?
The researchers didn’t want to jump to conclusions and say outright that inflammation led to brain damage.
But, they felt the conclusions of their study were profound enough that they should at least sound the alarm so people could try to intervene early on and get inflammation under control.
Other factors undoubtedly contribute to brain damage and the presence of higher levels of inflammation simply signaled future risk.
Walker said inflammation is not a cause and instead a marker of, or even a response to, neurodegenerative brain diseases that can lead to cognitive decline.