According to British research, people with a below average mental agility are prone to heart attacks.
It seems those with slower reaction times and bad memories have a higher risk of dying of cardiovascular or respiratory disease.
In a study by Dr. Beverly Shipley from Edinburgh University it was suggested that even after other factors usually linked with heart disease, such as physical activity, blood pressure, body mass index and smoking, were taken into account, longer reaction times were associated with higher death rates.
For the study the mental agility of more than 6,400 people from across the UK, aged between 18 and 99, were surveyed over a twenty one year period.
When the research ended in 2005 more than 1,500 members of the group had died and Dr Shipley says she found those with slower reaction times and a poorer memory had a higher risk of dying of cardiovascular or respiratory disease.
Dr. Shipley says it appears that differences in mental ability were a risk factor for certain vascular health conditions and lower than average mental agility led to at least a 10% greater chance of developing heart disease.
One of the surprising outcomes of the research was that both younger and older adults exhibited the same link between cognition and heart disease mortality.
Shipley suggests one possible explanation may be that human reaction time was an indicator of how well a body is ‘wired together’, but she also says it is unclear why cognition and reaction time is related to mortality.
The research is due to be presented at the British Psychological Society’s Scottish conference in Perth.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD