It’s confirmed! Good cardiovascular health at age 50 is strongly associated with a lower risk of dementia later: these are the results of a remarkably comprehensive study of almost 8,000 British adults over 25 years. Dementia starts to develop 15-20 years ahead of symptoms so warding off its onset is vital – and  not impossible – because cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable. It is now certain that, for most people, lowering cardio risk will have a dual benefit – for heart and brain health.

The American Heart Association’s ‘Life’s Simple 7’ score for cardiovascular health has been put forward as a potential tool for preventing dementia as well as cardiovascular disease.To address uncertainty around that suggestion, research led by French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and University College London, examined the link between the Life’s Simple 7 cardiovascular health score at age 50 and risk of dementia over the next 25 years.

Published by The British Medical Journal in early August, the study of cardiovascular data from ‘Whitehall II’ group of 7,899 civil servants of both sexes at age 50, also included data on social, behavioural, and biological factors for long-term health. The subjects were all free of cardiovascular disease and dementia at 50 and later dementia cases were identified using hospital, mental health services, and death registers until 2017.

Researchers found that following the Life’s Simple 7 cardiovascular health recommendations in midlife was linked with a lower risk of dementia. Compared with an incidence rate of dementia of 3.2 per 1000 person years among the group with a poor cardiovascular score, those with an intermediate score had an incidence of 1.8 per 1000 person years, while those with an optimal score had an incidence of 1.3 per 1000 person years.

Higher cardiovascular health score at age 50 was also associated with higher whole brain and grey matter volumes in MRI scans 20 years later. And reductions in dementia risk were also evident across the continuum of the cardiovascular score, suggesting that even small improvements in cardiovascular risk factors at age 50 may reduce dementia risk in old age, say the researchers.

“Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets. This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health, too” the researchers reported, while also noting that vascular health at 50 can also be determined by factors earlier in life, including inequality and social and economic determinants.

Check up on your heart health at  the American Heart Association site

See the article in the British Medical Journal at

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