The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 182 scientific studies. In their analysis, the authors looked for factors that could be “measured, monitored, and modified.” So, Dr. Gorelick and colleagues identified seven metrics that they believe can maintain brain health at optimal levels. Four of these are “ideal health behaviors” and three are “ideal health factors.”
The recommended health behaviors are: not smoking, maintaining high levels of physical activity, following a healthful diet, and keeping a healthy weight.
The health factors are: keeping blood pressure levels under 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), cholesterol levels under 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), and fasting blood sugar levels under 100 mg/dL. The seven metrics found in the new report correspond to the so-called Life’s Simple 7 – a program developed by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) with the aim of promoting cardiovascular health in the wide population.
These seven steps are:
1. Manage blood pressure
2. Control cholesterol
3. Keep blood sugar normal
4. Get physically active
5. Eat a healthy diet
6. Lose extra weight
7. Don’t start smoking or quit
“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 says.
Maintaining blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar at optimum levels is important because abnormally high levels of these may lead to complications that can cause atherosclerosis and blood clots.
The advisory stresses the importance of early interventions, as atherosclerosis, they warn, can start as early as childhood.
These recommendations are particularly important, the authors note, given the predicted prevalence of dementia in the United States and across the world. Currently, over 7 million new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year, and by 2030, the authors warn, as many as 75 million people may develop the condition.