According to a new report from the American Heart Association, a healthy lifestyle is reflected in your brain as much as it is in the rest of your body. A healthy lifestyle can lessen the risk of cognitive impairment, which limits healthy brain functions such as learning and remembering, communicating, making decisions, and solving problems.
As blood vessels become narrowed or blocked over the course of a person’s life, the risk of atherosclerosis increases. This condition slowly and silently blocks the arteries and can prevent adequate blood flow to the brain and the heart, causing heart attacks and strokes. The experts published strategies to help avoid this and other diseases.
“Research summarized in the advisory convincingly demonstrates that the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis, are also major contributors to late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. By following seven simple steps – Life’s Simple 7 – not only can we prevent heart attack and stroke, we may also be able to prevent cognitive impairment,” said vascular neurologist Philip Gorelick, M.D., M.P.H.
Created by the American Heart Association, Life’s Simple 7 highlights a set of health factors that define and promote cardiovascular wellness. The authors of the advisory reviewed 182 studies to produce a list of seven ways to achieve and maintain ideal brain health.
The program advises individuals to manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, keep blood sugar normal, get physically active, eat a healthy diet, lose extra weight, and quit smoking.
The report, which is published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, urges people to take these steps to foster a healthy brain as early as possible, because atherosclerosis can begin as early as childhood.
“Studies are ongoing to learn how heart-healthy strategies can impact brain health even early in life,” said Gorelick. While further research is needed, he believes “the outlook is promising.”
The action items included in Life’s Simple 7 meet three practical rules agreed upon by the panel as they pinpointed ways to improve brain health. The experts wanted to include health factors which could be measured, modified and monitored, according to Gorelick, and which could be easily accessed by healthcare providers who will inform patients of how to meet these goals.