As a cardiologist, I may be focused on cholesterol and the heart, but as a (gasp) middle-aged woman myself, I’m also concerned about maintaining brain health, supporting immunity, and avoiding cancer. And as someone who is super busy, I’m always looking for life “hacks” that allow me to be most efficient in everything I do. So imagine my excitement in hearing that improving heart health helps one avoid dementia at the same time!
This past week, two large studies pointed out that people with fewer risk factors for heart disease also enjoy better brain function as they age, including less Alzheimer’s disease. And given that there are currently no good treatments for dementia, that’s a pretty important piece of news. Especially since dementia incidence is exploding. It affected 50 million people worldwide in 2017, and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2030 it will affect 82 million people.
The first study looked at nearly 1,600 people, at an average age of 79.5, who were followed for up to 21 years. Their heart disease risk was assessed at the outset, and participants had annual memory and thinking tests. What the researchers noted was that people at higher risk for heart disease experienced greater cognitive decline. The second analysis looked at combined data from nearly 100,000 people followed over nearly 5 years and found that use of blood pressure lowering medications in people with hypertension reduced the risk of developing dementia as compared to doing nothing about blood pressure readings.
Modifiable risk factors for heart disease include smoking and inactivity, as well as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar/diabetes, obesity and poor diet. If you look at that list closely you will notice that 5 of the 7 modifiable risk factors are related in whole or in part to nutrition. So if you want to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or help keep your blood pressure readings in check, the most impactful thing you can do is change what you eat. Step One to the rescue!
I didn’t create Step One Foods to be “brain food” but given that our approach has been proven to positively impact heart disease risk, it’s great to know Step One Foods is brain food too! Now THAT’S a great hack!