“Life’s Simple Seven”, promoted by the American Heart Association, is a set of recommendations designed to reduce heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Since heart and brain health are closely entwined, adopting “Life’s Simple Seven” reduces the risk of dementia too. But does this strategy help those who carry a genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s? Here’s the latest research…

“Life’s Simple Seven” is a set of lifestyle changes – and drugs if needed – to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The goal is to normalize blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood glucose readings, as well as to quit smoking, reduce excess weight, exercise regularly, and eat healthily – more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and processed foods.

To discover whether these suggestions benefit the brain as well as the heart, two major studies were conducted and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2018. Both confirmed “Life’s Simple Seven” helped to prevent dementia.

An editorial in the journal commented on both papers writing, “Available evidence indicates that to achieve a lifetime of robust brain health free of dementia, it is never too early or too late to strive for attainment of ideal cardiovascular health.”

These studies settled the question for most of the population. The next step was to see whether the strategy would also benefit people at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The ARIC Study Results Are In 

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center analyzed data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, one of the world’s longest running and most important heart health studies.

It included 8,823 Americans with European ancestry and 2,738 with African ancestry. They were aged 54 on average when the study began and were followed for about 26 years.

Based on data collected at enrollment, each person was allocated a “Life’s Simple Seven” score ranging from zero (no normal readings and no lifestyle factors followed), to 14, where each lifestyle target was met.

Researchers also calculated the participants’ genetic risk score (GRS) and divided people into five different groups from low risk to high risk. The score was based not only on the presence (or lack thereof) of the APOE gene but on other genetic variants that also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, researchers noted which participants developed Alzheimer’s over the course of the study.

The findings will be a relief to those who are genetically at higher risk of Alzheimer’s.

Up To 43 Percent Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease 

The research team discovered that compared to participants with a low “Life’s Simple Seven” score, European Americans with a medium score had a 30 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s, rising to a whopping 43 percent lower risk for those with a high score. Among African Americans the risks were lowered by six percent and 17 percent, respectively.

This confirmed the findings of previous research showing that “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”

Those with a higher GRS had a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, as expected, but in all five GRS groups involving European Americans, each point increase in the “Life’s Simple Seven” score lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by almost ten percent. The trend was similar for African Americans but because far fewer were enrolled, no reliable inference can be drawn.

Dr. Adrienne Tin, first author of the study published in the journal Neurology in May said, “Genetics can put an individual at higher risk for late-onset dementia. However, genetics alone does not determine whether an individual would eventually develop dementia.

“Our findings reinforce the idea that late-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia are due to a combination of modifiable health and genetic factors. Health professionals and individuals can follow the guidance from Life’s Simple Seven to lower the risk of dementia.”


  1. https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/prevention/healthier-heart-he
  2. https://www.umc.edu/news/News_Articles/2022/06/MIND-Center-ARIC-Study.html 
  3. https://n.neurology.org/content/early/2022/05/25/WNL.0000000000200520 

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