The interconnected nature of heart and brain health in humans has been identified by a study of 40,000 people, published in the journal Science.

Cardiovascular disease has been blamed for various brain diseases, including strokes, dementia, and cognitive decline.

Also, patients with mental and cognitive disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy, show an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases.

However, the nature of these links was unclear and the new research investigated phenotypic and genetic heart-brain connections, using multi-organ MRI data from more than 40,000 participants in the British Biobank medical database.

The researchers identified a number of correlations between the structure and function of both the heart and the brain. For example, greater myocardial wall thickness was associated with greater brain subcortical volume.

Furthermore, a genome-wide association study of cardiac traits revealed loci also associated with complex neurological diseases. The findings suggest that genetic changes associated with heart disease may causally contribute to brain disorders.

The findings could help identify new potential therapeutic targets.