A new study from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland confirms what we’ve long known: the human body is connected in strange and unexpected ways. Specifically, researchers found that one of the best ways to test whether an individual is at risk for cognitive impairment – either through a stroke or dementia – is through the ankle.
Cognitive impairment, in the form of strokes and dementia, is becoming a bigger problem every year. In the United States strokes are responsible for one of every 20 deaths, and there are currently over five million people living with Alzheimer’s.1 That second number is expected to double by 2050.2 A test that can provide a warning for both of these threats is a major step in improving health outcomes.
That’s where our breakthrough comes in. The test is conducted with an ultrasound device called a Doppler and a simple blood pressure cuff. By comparing the systolic blood pressure in your ankle and your arm, a doctor can determine whether you are a likely candidate for dementia. The test, known as an ankle-brachial index or ABI, takes only fifteen minutes from start to finish.
Scientists Discover An Unexpected Link Between Brain Health And Your Ankle
The ABI test works by assessing the health of blood vessels throughout the body. In a healthy individual, blood pressure should be consistent through the upper and lower extremities. If a person has reduced blood flow in the legs, it is a sign of clogged arteries and even periphery artery disease, known as PAD.
In addition, the ABI test has been proven to be an incredibly accurate predictor of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Clogged arteries throughout the body almost always are a sign that a person also has atherosclerosis in their cerebral blood vessels. These impede blood vessels and in many cases lead to stroke and impaired cognition.
New Studies Show Just How Effective This Ankle Test Can Be At Detecting Dementia
Some key proof for this concept comes from a ten-year long study conducted at the University of Edinburgh and published in the journal Vascular Medicine.3 The research looked at over seven hundred men and women between the ages of 55 and 74. Participants had their ABI tested and then had their major cognitive functions measured. Cognitive tests focused on memory, information processing, and verbal fluency. Testers also measured premorbid function with the National Adult Reading Test, or NRT.
The results showed just how strong the connection between ABI and cognition is: participants with the lowest ABI readings had scores 60 to 230 percent lower on their cognitive function tests. The researchers wrote in their conclusion that ABI can be “useful in identifying older individuals at higher risk of cognitive impairment.”
Another study, this one by the National Institute on Aging, found the ABI-cognitive function connection to be just as strong. It showed that, among over 2,500 elderly men, individuals with low ABI readings were 57 percent more likely to and over twice as likely to suffer from dementia within the next eight years.
Increased Blood Flow Is Key
So now that you understand the incredible predictive power of the ABI-test, an excellent first step would be to ask your doctor about conducting one with you. With a better understanding of your risk level for a stroke or other cognitive impairment, you and your doctor can plot a course of action.
Part of any remedy will involve ways to increase blood flow throughout the body. A couple methods that might be suitable for you include increased exercise, improved diet, or blood-pressure regulating medications such as statins. Keeping your body healthy is crucial to your mental acuity.
The ABI test provides us with potentially life-saving information about our brains. Remember, it’s always better to have advanced warning of trouble down the road than to not find out until it’s too late.