A healthy heart at age 50 could mean lower dementia risk

In a new study, researchers found that good heart health at age 50 is linked to a lower risk of dementia later in life.

The findings support public health policies to improve heart health in middle age to promote later brain health.

The research was conducted by an international team from France, the UK, and Finland.

Dementia is a progressive disease that can start to develop 15-20 years before any symptoms appear, so identifying factors that might prevent its onset is important.

The American Heart Association’s “Life Simple 7” heart r health score, initially designed for cardiovascular disease, has been put forward as a potential tool for preventing dementia.

The “Life Simple 7” is the sum of four behavioral (smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index) and three biological (fasting glucose, blood cholesterol, blood pressure) factors in heart health.

In the new study, the team examined the link between the Life Simple 7 heart health score at age 50 and the risk of dementia over the next 25 years.

They analyzed heart disease data collected from 7,899 British men and women at age 50 in the Whitehall II Study.

All participants were free of cardiovascular disease and dementia at age 50.

Dementia cases were identified using the hospital, mental health services, and death registers until 2017.

The team found 347 cases of dementia were recorded over an average follow-up period of 25 years. The average age at dementia diagnosis was 75 years.

Adherence to the Life Simple 7 heart health recommendations in midlife was linked to a lower risk of dementia later in life.

In addition, better heart health score at age 50 was also linked to the 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 heart health score.

This suggests that even small improvements in heart health at age 50 may reduce dementia risk in old age.

The team says heart disease risk factors are modifiable, making them important targets in dementia prevention.

This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health.

The lead author of the study is Séverine Sabia from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and University College London.

The study is published in The BMJ.

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