According to the BMJ (formally The British Medical Journal), people who have good cardiovascular health at age 50 are less likely to develop dementia later in life.
The findings of this study support the idea that it is important to have healthy heart habits throughout life. Not only will these habits act as an effective preventative measure against heart disease and stroke, but also against dementia.
Dementia is a progressive disease, and as such clinical symptoms often do not appear until 15 to 20 years after the onset of the disease. So, whereas most previous studies looked at only links between cardiovascular risk factors and dementia, this new study takes a longer view, looking at factors that are present as early as mid-life.
How the study worked
The authors of the study specifically looked to see if they could find a link between people’s “Life’s Simple 7” cardiovascular health scores at midlife and their risk of dementia two decades later.
“Life’s Simple 7” is a tool developed by the American Heart Association to help people make changes in their life to improve their heart health. The scores are based on seven metrics. Four are behavioural and three are biological.
- Physical activity and
- Body mass index (BMI).
- Fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels
- Blood cholesterol levels
- Blood pressure.
Other research has found that people with higher “Life’s Simple 7” scores (optimal) tend to have a lower risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
The people involved in the study were scored on the “Life’s Simple 7” either “poor,” “intermediate” or “optimal” cardiovascular health at age 50. Over the next 25 years 347 (4.4%) of the 7899 patients were diagnosed with dementia, with the average age being 75.
With their findings, the researchers found a clear link between participants’ scores on the “Life’s Simple 7” at midlife and their risk of developing dementia in old age.
Link between poor cardiovascular health at 50 and dementia risk
Those patients who had scored “poor” on the original test at aged 50 were almost two times more likely than those with “intermediate” scores, and almost three times more likely than those with “optimal” scores, to have developed dementia two-and-a-half decades later.
Better brain health
The researchers also analysed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data collected from about 700 of the participants at age 50 and then again at age 70. Those brain scans revealed an association between higher “Life’s Simple 7” scores at midlife and higher volumes of whole brain and grey matter in later years. So, those participants who had higher (optimal) cardiovascular health at 50, also had better brain function (brain health) at 70.
Small improvements in lifestyle can help
“Our findings suggest that the “Life’s Simple 7“, which comprises the cardiovascular health score, at age 50 may shape the risk of dementia in a synergistic manner,” the authors of the study conclude. “Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets.”
“Even small improvements in cardiovascular health metrics, without necessarily reaching the optimal level for each metric, are likely to be beneficial in reducing the risk of dementia,” the researchers stress.
What this means is that even with small tweaks in any of the 7 measures you can improve your chances and help prevent your risk of dementia.
At Medcare you can have a Cardiovascular Risk Assessment. This used the UK Qrisk algorithm and will predict your risk of developing heart disease or stroke in the next 10 years. This check is invaluable – and can help steer you in the right direction in needs be, and could help you reduce your risk of vascular dementia.
Call 966 860 258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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