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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Emory: Twins Study Shows What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Emory University researchers recently published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease that found good heart health can equal good brain health.

By studying pairs of twin brothers from the Vietnam Era Twin registry, the researchers were able to observe the relationship between cardiovascular health (CVH) and cognitive performance across all participants that may be explained by genetics and/or exposures or behaviors that are shared by members of the same family.

“Our study across the entire sample of twins confirmed that better CVH is associated with better cognitive health in several domains,” says senior author Dr. Viola Vaccarino, Wilton Looney Professor of Cardiovascular Research at the Rollins School of Public Health and professor at Emory School of Medicine. “The analyses further suggested that familial factors shared by the twins explain a large part of the association and thus could be important for both cardiovascular and brain health.”

To determine whether these familial factors were genetically or environmentally driven, researchers further stratified the within-pair analysis to determine whether the relationship between CVH and cognitive function was different between identical and fraternal twins.

The within-pair association was similar in identical and fraternal twins. Therefore familial factors, such as early family environment, early socioeconomic status and education, and parenting – rather than genetics – may be important precursors of both cardiovascular and brain health – thus explaining some of the association between CVH and cognition.

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