Experts recommend people should follow as many as possible to protect their brain as they age.
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The study examined possible links between cardiovascular health and the risk of dementia.
There is much evidence that lifestyle factors have a significant impact on heart and circulatory health and staying slim and exercising from middle age can preserve cognitive skills.
The researchers selected 6,600 people aged 65 and over and applied the “Simple 7” rules, developed by the American Heart Association. These are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish, exercising, and keeping control of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
They found the more habits people followed, the lower the dementia risk.
The researchers hope their findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, will support the promotion of cardiovascular health as a way to prevent risk factors associated with dementia developing. Lead study author Dr Cecilia Samieri, of the University of Bordeaux, said: “We wanted a simple public health message saying that the more factors you optimise, the more the risk is decreased.
“For each additional optimal factor you have a 10 per cent lower risk of developing dementia.”
The study did not look at how long people had been following healthy lifestyles, but Dr Samieri said her study demonstrated it was “never too late” to change.
The AHA has found that since issuing its “Simple 7” rules in 2010, several scientific publications have recognised strong health benefits for a range of conditions.
These included strokes, coronary heart disease and heart attacks, as well as non-cardiovascular conditions such as depression, cognitive function and cancer.
The AHA developed the seven rules as an easy way for people to understand and track their risk of having a stroke or heart disease.
The goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by 20 per cent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 per cent by 2020.
The organisation’s research found that it was easier to make good choices if you have always lived a healthy lifestyle, but it can be a struggle to try to change bad habits.
AHA president Dr Mark Creager said: “The message for parents is to make sure your kids adopt healthy behaviours.
“For younger and older adults, do what you can to push yourself into the ideal range.”