The American Heart Association (AHA) established a 2020 Impact Goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% and reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20%.
One of the key components of this initiative is “Life’s Simple 7“, which aims to promote ideal cardiovascular health by focusing on seven key factors that you have control over.
What is Life’s Simple 7?
Life’s Simple 7 is a set of seven health behaviors and factors identified by the AHA as key to improving cardiovascular health.
- Don’t smoke: Quit smoking as soon as possible, or don’t start.
- Diet: Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.
- Physical activity: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
- Body mass index (BMI): Maintain a healthy BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m².
- Blood pressure: Keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Diabetes: Maintain blood glucose levels within a healthy range to prevent or manage diabetes and prediabetes.
- Blood cholesterol: Keep total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL.
These seven modifiable risk factors all influence your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Recent research has also shown that these same 7 measures may also play a key role in reducing the risk of dementia.
Life’s Simple 7 and Dementia Risk
A new study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th Annual Meeting in February 2023 found that higher scores on the Life’s Simple 7 are associated with a decreased risk of dementia among women.
The study analyzed the risk factor data from 13,720 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Study at baseline (1992-1994) and approximately ten years later (2004).
The study found that a higher Life’s Simple 7 score measured at baseline was associated with a statistically significant decrease in risk of dementia. This effect was similar for the Life’s Simple 7 score measured after ten years of follow-up.
While the study only looked at women participants, it is likely that these findings apply to men as well.
What You Can Do to Reduce Your Dementia Risk
This study provides strong evidence that improving your cardiovascular health through the adoption of Life’s Simple 7 behaviors can also lower your risk of developing dementia.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help motivate you to take action:
- Do you smoke? If so, what steps can you take to quit smoking or reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke?
- What is your current diet like? Are you consuming mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, or is your diet high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars?
- How physically active are you? How can you increase your physical activity and ensure that you’re getting at least 150 minutes of exercise every week?
- Do you know your current BMI? Are you proactively taking steps toward a healthier BMI?
- How recently have you had your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked? Do you know what steps you can take to improve these levels?
- Are you at risk for diabetes? If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, are you working with your healthcare provider to manage your blood glucose levels within a healthy range?
Addressing these key areas can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, lower your risk of dementia, and significantly raise your chances of living a longer, healthier life.