Keeping track of children’s weight, blood pressure and cholesterol could help protect their brain function in later life, researchers have said.

A team from Finland say this is the first study which has looked at childhood cardiovascular health could impact cognitive performance as they get older.

Nearly one in five people in their 60s are thought to have slight brain function loss, previous research studies have found.

Lead author Dr Juuso Hakala, from the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, said: “We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups.

“Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

The trial involved following around 3,600 children from childhood to adulthood. For 31 years they had their cardiovascular risk factors measured. Once they reached middle age, more than 2,000 of the participants took part in a cognitive function test. This was used to measure things like their short-term memory and attention span.

They found the adults who experienced high blood pressure or high cholesterol in childhood were prone to poor memory and learning by midlife.

Childhood obesity was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.

Those who suffered from weight problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol as children were more likely to have more cognitive problems in later life.

The study findings have been published in the journal Circulation.

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