Keeping your brain sharp as you age goes far beyond just pouring through crossword puzzles. While genetics play a big role, there are also a number of actionable strategies you can take to offer support. In fact, a new study from Neurology suggests there are seven health factors that may affect the development of dementia, specifically, and it’s never too early to start thinking about each one of them.
The American Heart Association (AHA) refers to these factors as “Life’s Simple 7” (LS7), which affect both your cardiovascular and brain health and can be modified to help you live a more fulfilling life and lower your overall risk of dementia.
What are Life’s Simple 7?
- Physical activity
- Healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Healthy blood pressure
- Total cholesterol
- Reducing blood sugar
Looking at 8,823 European Americans and 2,738 Black Americans over the course of 30 years, the study rated each participant on a scale of 0 to 14 in the above categories to determine the extent of their healthy habits in combination with their genetic risk of developing dementia. Based on their calculated risk scores, the participants were then broken into groups with those at a corresponding risk level.
At the end of the study, researchers determined that those with higher scores in LS7 were less likely to develop dementia, overall lowering the estimated risk. In fact, each time a participant gained one point on the LS7 scale, their risk for dementia dropped around 9%.
While this study reveals that there are factors within your control that may reduce your risk of dementia, it also clearly states that this may not be applicable to those that are highly genetically predisposed to this condition. Ultimately, more research is needed on the subject.
Additionally, the study recognizes that this is still a relatively small test group, and in order to more effectively determine these habits’ effect on lowering dementia risk, a larger sample size would be needed with increasingly diverse populations.
The authors also explain, “It has been widely recognized that racism contributed to poorer health outcomes in AA (African American) individuals. We observed lower LS7 scores and higher risk of incident dementia among AA participants consistent with results from other studies.”
If there was ever any question as to the benefits of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, this study goes to show that even factors such as your diet and exercise routine may decrease your risk of developing dementia down the line. Of course, predisposition will always play a role in the likelihood of such genetic conditions, but making intentional, positive changes to your lifestyle (even into your middle and older years) may make a difference in slowing mental decline.