The American Heart Association (AHA) weighed in on brain health recently and stated that their Life’s Simple 7 guide for achieving optimal cardiovascular health (CVH) can even reverse cognitive decline and even dementia. In Life’s Simple 7: AHA, we’ll talk about these 7 simple steps you can shoot for and better your heart health and brain health. And since we are pretty concerned about brain health, these are great guidelines for achieving optimal brain health.
So here they are:
- Stop Smoking
- Get Active
- Lose Weight or Maintain Optimal BMI (body mass index)
- Manage Blood Pressure
- Control Cholesterol
- Reduce or Maintain Blood Sugar
We’ll talk about each of these individually and then talk about some research that confirmed The Simple 7 are great for brain function.
1. Stop Smoking.
Well this is very self-explanatory. Cigarette smoke has a lot of carcinogens and chemicals in it. It adds carbon monoxide to our blood. It reduces oxygen levels. It’s just bad for us. If you want to know more about how to quit smoking and how fast you benefit from not smoking, check out the AHA guide: Guide for Quitting Smoking. Also, many health insurance companies provide free tools and prescriptions to help you quit. Call your health insurance today and see what they can offer you.
I subscribe to the low-carb, modified keto diet. And I try to be gluten-free. Why? Gluten causes inflammation and we actually need more fat in our diets. The good fats. Omega 3’s, Medium-chain triglycerides and Omega 9s. Our brains are made of mostly fat so when you think about it, fats are brain food. Not only that, but when you have enough of the optimal fats, you can reduce your cholesterol, if you cut out gluten and lower your intake of carbs (from the standard diet most Americans are used to).
It may sound crazy, but I was able to lower my LDL cholesterol level (the bad one) in a few months after going low carb and higher fat intake. And, I lost a few pounds I’d been hoping to lose for the last few years! Check out the articles on the best diet for the brain and all about gluten, shown below.
3. Get Active.
Exercise is undeniably one of the best things you can do for your brain. Doctors and scientists have shown that exercise improves brain function and even helps prevent cognitive decline. Aerobic or even short burst exercise can increase your brainpower. Check out this article on Exercise and Brain Function.
4. Lose Weight or Maintain Optimal BMI.
If you are already low-carb, good fat or keto, then you’ve experienced the good weight loss that happens by adding MCT Oil, ghee and Omega 3s. If not, it’s a great option for losing unwanted weight. Otherwise, there are lots of programs and diets out there to choose from. I do highly recommend the low-carb, good fat (and no gluten) diet for brain health and losing unwanted fat, especially around the gut. But no matter what, eat healthy. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, eat grass-fed meats, when available.
5. Manage Blood Pressure.
If you already are at your optimal BMI, then chances are you have healthy blood pressure too. If not, losing excess weight and eating healthy might help. If you have high blood pressure, make sure to talk with your doctor about possible solutions.
6. Control Cholesterol.
I mentioned one way to get cholesterol under control: Increasing the good fats and cutting down on carbs, especially gluten. You might read the articles above to learn more about it. I had tried cutting out cheese and reducing my fat intake for a few years after my cholesterol levels got high. It didn’t work.
But I had my cholesterol checked again after I started putting MCT Oil in my coffee in the mornings and also grass-fed ghee. It tastes great, by the way. 🙂 I also was cutting down on carbs. My cholesterol levels, especially the LDL, were Much improved. I was amazed. I highly recommend trying this diet for a lot of reasons, but if you have high cholesterol, you might be amazed at the results, too.
7. Reduce or Maintain Blood Sugar Levels
We can simply not eat a lot of sugar but carbs also turn into sugar in our bodies. This is another reason to go low-carb and higher good fats. The fats are not only healthy (and brain food) but they help keep you from feeling hungry. If you have diabetes, you obviously are trying to keep your blood sugar under control. Everyone else should know that even spikes in blood sugar can cause ‘brain fog’ and decrease brain function.
So a study was done to see how Life’s Simple 7 affected brain health. It was called the Northern Manhattan Study in 2018. They did MRI’s before and after the study, which lasted seven years. All 1,031 participants had varying number of the factors. The researchers correlated the number of factors per participant and determined how much of each factor made a difference. It’s interesting that none of the participants had ideal levels in all seven at the beginning of the study. Only 1% had ideal ratings in six of them. Most had ideal status in only two or three factors.
But they did find that the more optimal levels of the factors they did have ideal status in, the better their brain function and the better their brain was aging. So, Life’s Simple 7 is definitely worth the quest, for heart health and for brain health.
Life’s Simple 7 might seem like common sense. And it is. But it’s good to have something to shoot for that’s measurable and relates to healthy outcomes, not only for our hearts, but for our brains.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Life’s Simple 7. If you have questions, comments, or experience with anything in this article, please share them in the Comments section below. Thank you for reading!
American Heart Association. (n.d.). https://www.heart.org/en/professional/workplace-health/lifes-simple-7
Gardener, H., Caunca, M., Dong, C., Cheung, Y. K., Alperin, N., Rundek, T., Elkind, M., Wright, C. B., & Sacco, R. L. (2018). Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Biomarkers of Subclinical Brain Aging: The Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(16), e009544. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.118.009544