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Seven Steps to Brain Health

I like Simple.

If you do also, then you will like the American Heart Association’s and American Stroke Association’s “Life’s Simple Seven.” In short, what they find is: what works well for cardiovascular health also shows the promise of working really well to stave off dementia caused by strokes, vascular dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  If you have an older loved one whom you would like to see have a healthier heart, you will get the added benefit of a healthier brain by encouraging the Simple Seven.  And there is a bonus…it also will work for you!

The seven steps that have been recommended to improve heath health now also are considered as important to improving your brain’s health. “Life’s Simple 7” are considered to help prevent dementia caused by strokes, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. They have been chosen by AHA and ASA as metrics to help confer brain health. “…the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis are also major contributors to late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” commented Philip Gorelick, MD, Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences in Grand Rapids, Michigan, chair of the advisory writing group.

The seven steps are a combination of individual characteristics and behaviors that help to foster better brain as well as heart health:
1. Don’t smoke
2. Be physically active
3. Maintain or reduce body mass index to less than a 25 on the scale
4. Have a healthy diet – there are guidelines for this
5. With a combination of exercise/reduced weight have a blood pressure of <120/80 mm Hg
6. Without meds (but with diet and exercise), have a total cholesterol <200 mg/dL
7. Maintain an A1C (fasting blood glucose) < 100 mg/dL

Before this most recent analysis, researchers tended to look at brain health and heart health as pretty much different conditions caused by different lifestyle or health behaviors. But “over time we have learned that the same risk factors for stroke that are referred to in Life’s Simple 7 are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and possibly for some of the other neurodegenerative disorders,” Dr Gorelick noted.

All of this is a step toward better brain health while at the same time promoting better heart health. This is one of those fortunate opportunities where a person can get two for the price of one. Take better care of your heart and you get better brain health as a bonus. Take better care of your brain, and your heart also gets a benefit. Not a bad bargain for anyone who is a bargain shopper…no coupons required.  Be healthy.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.


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