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'Life's Simple 7' Adherence in 20s Tied to Better Brain Health Later

THURSDAY, July 20, 2017 -- People with heart-healthy habits in their 20s tend to have larger, healthier brains in their 40s, according to a study published online July 19 in Neurology.

Michael Bancks, Ph.D., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues reviewed data on 518 people participating in a long-range heart health study. The participants, now an average age of 51, had been followed for three decades. They received follow-up exams every two to five years, and underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 25 years after entering the study. The research team rated each participant based on how well they followed each of "Life's Simple 7" at the start of the study. The researchers then compared those scores against the MRIs performed in middle age, to see whether living healthy as a young adult mattered years later.

The team found that twenty-somethings who closely followed the guidelines from the American Heart Association had brains in middle age that appeared more than a decade younger than those who didn't follow the guidelines at all. Each 1-point improvement in a young person's heart-healthy lifestyle score was "essentially the same as one year less in brain aging," Bancks told HealthDay. "As the score increases, you see a better result for brain structure." Smoking had a stronger association with smaller brain volume than the other lifestyle factors.

The Life's Simple 7 guidelines promote heart health by urging people to maintain a healthy blood pressure, control cholesterol levels, reduce blood glucose, engage in regular physical activity, eat better, lose weight, and either quit or avoid smoking.

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Posted: July 2017