Life's Simple 7
January 10, 2017
We all want to be fit as a fiddle and sharp as a tack, especially as we age. What if a healthier heart could lead to a brawnier brain? A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association makes that connection.
It found that older adults who achieved gains in more of Life’s Simple 7 – an American Heart Association guideline for heart health – had less decline in the brain’s cognitive functions, such as processing speed and episodic memory.
Life’s Simple 7
- Manage Blood Pressure
- Control Cholesterol
- Reduce Blood Sugar
- Get Active
- Eat Better
- Lose Weight
- Stop Smoking
The study results didn’t surprise clinicians. “Does heart health equal cognitive health? There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and research to suggest it does,” said CHI Health cardiologist Eric Van De Graaff, MD. “To me, this is stuff we’ve known for a long time. This is just one more piece.”
The same things that harm your heart — smoking, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries — impact the mind. “We know what helps us improve the general overall health of the blood vessels and that’s exercise, diet, not smoking. I tell my patients that activity is the key to aging,” said Dr. Van De Graaff. “It all leads to a lower risk of dementia, better memory and less depression as patients age.”
Not sure where to start?
Take the American Heart Association’s My Heart Score quiz. It shows where you’re strongest, and what needs attention.
Pick an area or two to focus your efforts. Then brainstorm some doable adjustments, such as:
- Manage Blood Pressure – Taste your food before adding salt, and sprinkle on as little as possible.
- Control Cholesterol – Cut one fried food from your diet, or switch from 2% to 1% milk.
- Reduce Blood Sugar – Cut your carb portion size by one-third, for a little less bread, pasta or potatoes.
- Get Active – Take a stair break at work and climb a few flights.
- Eat Better – Try a healthy new recipe every week or two.
- Lose Weight – Replace a sugary snack with a fruit or vegetable treat.
- Stop Smoking – Ask your doctor or employer for help, or contact the American Cancer Society for stop-smoking resources.
The key is to be aware, and start somewhere, to work toward a healthier heart and a sharper mind.