A diet high in salt, along with decreased physical activity can be detrimental to cognitive health in senior citizens, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal neurobiology of aging, reports that senior citizens who consume a lot of sodium in their diet and lead sedentary lifestyles, may be placing themselves at increased risk for more than just heart disease.

According to researchers, led by Dr. Alexandra Fiocco at the University of Toronto, Canada, stated that these findings may have significant public health implications, noting the importance of addressing many lifestyle factors that can of fact brain health.

“We have generated important evidence that sodium intake not only impacts heart health, but brain health as well,” Dr. Fiocco said.

“The results of our study show that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, with especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,” she explained.

During the three year study, the consumption and physical activity levels of 1262 healthy senior citizen men and women, living in Canada was followed.

The participants were recruited from a large pool of adults were of the Québec Longitudinal  Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging.

They were assessed as low, medium or high level salt consumers, based on a food frequency questionnaire they completed.  The team then used a modified examination to measure cognitive function in the participants at the end of the first year of the study and annually for three additional years.

A sedentary lifestyle and high salt intake was found to be associated with cognitive decline.  The researchers noted that individuals with low activity levels, but low sodium intake were linked to maintaining cognitive function over three years.

“The combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sodium intake is particularly detrimental to cognitive health,” the researchers said.

“This study suggests that sodium intake reduction, especially in low physical activity older adults, may further improve brain health, in late life,” they added.

“This is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the years that we followed them if they had low salt intake,” said Fiocco.

The senior author of the study, Dr. Carol Greenwood noted this study is “Especially relevant as we know them munching on high without processed snacks while engaged in sedentary activities, such as watching TV playing in front of the computer, is a frequent past time for many adults.” 

Source: Neurobiology of Aging