7 Simple Steps to Avoid Dementia12 months ago | Memory Loss
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
It goes without saying that taking care of your heart is extremely important. But did you know that good cardiovascular health may help you ward off the risk of dementia as you age?
A recent study conducted by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that having a healthy heart could greatly diminish your chances of suffering from dementia later on in life. By protecting your heart, you’re actually protecting your mind as well.
Using credible evidence, the American Heart Association (AHA) developed a prescription for cardiovascular health called Life’s Simple 7. These are the seven most important predictors of heart health and what the JAMA report based its findings on.
What are Life’s Simple 7?
1. Manage Blood Pressure. No mystery here. Having high blood pressure can lead to serious ailments including heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure can reduce strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys, and now we come to find out, your brain. If you are trying to rein in your blood pressure, try to cut back on processed and salty foods like canned soups, lunch meats and frozen dinners. Replace these meal options with an increase of leafy greens, garlic and fruits like bananas.
2. Control Cholesterol. Controlling your cholesterol should be high on your list of priorities. High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. To give your arteries and heart the best bill of health, limit trans fats and saturated fats. Try replacing them with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Also work to increase your soluble fiber because it may help to reduce cholesterol. Foods like black beans, apples and pears contain fiber.
3. Reduce Blood Sugar. Most of the food you eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that your body uses for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. If you are prediabetic or diabetic, talk to a competent healthcare professional about how you can come up with a plan to manage this.
4. Get Active. Physical activity helps ward off high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and a host of other chronic diseases. Despite these well-documented benefits, most Americans aren't physically active enough. Start off slow and work your way up. Daily physical activity increases your quality of life, which will enrich your mind and keep your heart healthy.
5. Eat Better. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is the first line of defense to fighting cardiovascular disease. Maintain a heart healthy diet and improve your cognitive health as well. A Mediterranean diet is a great diet to reference and offers a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention and diabetes prevention. With an emphasis on whole fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish, the Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of healthy eating habits.
6. Lose Weight. The terms ‘diet’ or ‘losing weight’ can send some people running for the hills, but it doesn’t have to be thought of as such an arduous endeavor. When you shed unhealthy fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. Keeping your weight under control is a matter of eating healthy, whole, natural foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are key to putting on healthy weight, which is essential in older adults.
7. Stop Smoking. As it relates to nutrition, smoking tobacco severely robs the body of critical nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. There are ways to snuff out this destructive habit through nutrition and exercise. Aerobic exercise may help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. There is some evidence that watercress may detoxify carcinogens in smokers. So you may want to incorporate this vegetable in your diet to reduce the negative impact of smoking. Good nutrition and physical exercise can go very far in keeping you healthy and may help with your efforts to quit smoking.
6,600 senior citizens were involved in this recent study that tied heart health to cognitive functioning. Researchers found those that scored high and fulfilled more on the ‘Life’s Simple 7’ checklist had a lower risk of dementia. Among those with the lowest scores, dementia developed at a rate of 13.3 cases per 100 people. But among those with the highest scores, there were only 7.1 cases per 100 test subjects.
"To achieve a lifetime of robust brain health free of dementia, it is never too early or too late to strive for attainment of idea cardiovascular health," Dr. Jeffrey Saver, a leader of the UCLA Stroke Center. Dr. Mary Cushman of the University of Vermont also stated the following in an editorial that accompanies the study: "Given the aging population, this positive health message is important to communicate to all members of society."
The Cognitive Connection to Your Heart
There have already been studies that have shown a direct link between vascular problems and brain health. Narrowed, blocked or leaky blood vessels can lead to strokes, which are one of the leading causes of dementia, only second to Alzheimer's disease. Observational studies have uncovered connections between cardiovascular conditions in midlife and cognitive conditions later on in life.
Researchers explained the effects of Life’s Simple 7 on cognition. Imagine a 73 year old man that does not meet any of the AHA Life’s Simple 7 standards. It would take about six years for his cognitive level to fall by one "standard unit." However, if he met all seven of the AHA standards, it would take twice as long for his cognitive level to decline by the same amount.
Authors of this study all acknowledged that it can be an uphill battle to convince people to improve their diets and make better lifestyle choices to meet all of the Simple 7 criteria. Instead try to motivate yourself to reach an ‘intermediate’ status by checking off over half of these healthy heart goals. This can be much more achievable and valuable in the long run.
Remember that every part of your body is interconnected in one way or another. When one organ suffers, it is likely to affect another. Making sure you are getting the right amounts of nutrients is key. Proactive Health Labs offers nutritional testing which pinpoints what nutrients your body is lacking. In the meantime, be mindful of what you put into your body, so that you can get the best out of your body for years to come.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.