Forgotten tasks, forgotten phone numbers, blips in memory—grandma forgetting all about the beans on the stove after she goes to answer the phone—these are all examples of iconic “seniors moments,” lapses in memory associated with aging. According to new research lead by Matthew Pase, presented at a meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, says Science Magazine, such senior moments could be due to bleeding in the brain.
As you get older your aorta, the artery that heads up from your heart carrying blood to your brain, gets stiffer. This stiffening of the aorta tissue, argues the new research, increases the pressure of the blood flowing to your head. High blood pressure can, in turn, cause blood vessels in your brain to pop, says Science, “especially during stress.”
Central blood pressure and aorta stiffness alone were sensitive predictors of cognitive abilities, Pase reported at the meeting. The higher the central pressure and aorta stiffness, the worse people tended to perform on tests of visual processing and memory.
The idea that tiny amounts of bleeding in the brain could be associated with cognitive problems isn’t new. Previous work has shown that such “microbleeds” are associated with “mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease.”
According to Science, the new research only shows that the stiffness of the aorta can be related to age-related cognitive decline. More in-depth research will be needed to figure out whether or not it is the bleeding on the brain, specifically, that is causing the senior moments.
More from Smithsonian.com: