In 2012, the American Heart Association defined “ideal health”, at least as far as the heart is concerned, to be based on seven risk factors. From this definition, they developed seven steps that anyone can take at any time in their lives to improve their health. Called “Life’s Simple 7Ⓡ”, managing these health behaviors and understanding their associated metrics can help individuals live a healthier, better life, and even live longer.

The seven steps are:

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat better
  • Get active
  • Lose weight
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Control cholesterol
  • Reduce blood sugar

While there are obvious advantages to taking control of these health behaviors as early as possible, even seniors can improve their cardiovascular health by working on even one or two of Life’s Simple 7. But what may surprise you is that sticking to Life’s Simple 7 doesn’t just improve your heart health — it may improve your brain health. 

Heart health linked to the brain

Keeping your heart in ship shape obviously has benefits to your overall health. But it may also be linked to brain health, especially as we age. We’ve seen that interactive exercise like dancing can have an effect on Parkinson’s patients, but there’s more news about heart health and the brain. 

A recent study has found that seniors who stuck to the steps of Life’s Simple 7 had a lower risk of dementia than seniors who didn’t. The study followed nearly 8,000 individuals from the age of 50 to the age of 75. They found that higher cardiovascular health rates correlated with a lower risk of dementia. The study also found that seniors who adhered to Life’s Simple 7 at the age of 50 were more likely to have higher brain volume and gray matter volume at the age of 70. 

Of course, the study doesn’t exactly know why the seniors who had better cardiovascular health had better brain outcomes than those who didn’t. At the same time, seniors self-reported their adherence to Life’s Simple 7, which could account for some bias.

Control your heart health for better outcomes

Even though there’s no way to tell why better heart health can prevent dementia and improve brain outcomes exactly, the authors of the study say it’s worthwhile to add it to the list of reasons to participate in Life’s Simple 7. “Our findings suggest that the Life’s Simple 7, which comprises the cardiovascular health score, at age 50 may shape the risk of dementia in a synergistic manner,” they said.

The best part about Life’s Simple 7 is that they are, as the name implies, pretty simple. The first three of the steps — quit smoking, eat better, and get active — are especially simple, and any individual can work on them starting immediately. The remaining four — lose weight, manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, and reduce blood sugar — typically follow after the first three.

The takeaway: talk to your doctor today about ways you can incorporate Life’s Simple 7 into your own plan for aging. You can also learn more about healthy brain aging at the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico ChapterAging Life provides many programs that help seniors and their families deal with the care involved with aging. Get in touch today for a free initial consultation.