The seven steps to cognitive health, according to US advisory

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13 Sep 2017 --- Cognitive health is a hot topic in the world of nutrition, and a leading US nonprofit heart health organization has given seven steps of advice focusing on the connection between heart and brain health. A new advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association has made it clear that a healthy lifestyle benefits the brain as much as the rest of the body and it may lessen the risk of cognitive decline with age.

Both the heart and brain need adequate blood flow, the organization points out in its press release, but in many people, blood vessels slowly become narrowed or blocked over the course of their life, a disease process known as atherosclerosis. Many risk factors for atherosclerosis can be modified by following a healthy diet, according to the AHA.

“Research summarized in the advisory convincingly demonstrates that the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis are also major contributors to late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” says vascular neurologist Philip Gorelick, M.D., M.P.H., the chair of the advisory’s writing group.

Seven factors help brain health
Life’s Simple 7, the result of authors reviewing 182 published scientific studies, outlines a set of health factors developed by the AHA to define and promote cardiovascular wellness. The studies show that these seven factors may also help foster ideal brain health in adults, the AHA press release points out.

The Life’s Simple 7 program urges individuals to:

  • Manage blood pressure
  • Control cholesterol
  • Keep blood sugar normal
  • Get physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Lose extra weight
  • Don’t start smoking or quit

The advisory, which is published in the AHA’s journal Stroke, stresses the importance of taking steps to keep the brain healthy as early as possible, because atherosclerosis can begin in childhood. “Studies are ongoing to learn how heart-healthy strategies can impact brain health even early in life,” Gorelick says.

As people live longer lives in the US and elsewhere, about 75 million people worldwide could have dementia by 2030, according to the advisory. “Policy makers will need to allocate healthcare resources for this,” Gorelick adds.

Nutrition industry takes cognitive action
The nutritional space continues to echo this interest in cognitive health. Recently, Evonik has been actively targeting cognitive health and its connection to cardiovascular health

“We see that there's a need for solutions to counter cognitive decline, for example, the onset of dementia and even Alzheimer's,” says Dr. Ludger Eilers, Director of Evonik Health Care’s Food Ingredient Segment. “Evonik has taken on this challenge, and we are researching our products Medox and Healthberry in the cognition area. Our products have acquired a strong track record for cardiovascular health; for example, in the past we have had about 15 clinical studies for these products, and we believe that cognitive health area is the new frontier.”

At Vitafoods Asia 2017, analyze & realize Senior Consultant Iris Hardewig also talked about nutrients’ role in cognitive health. “[In the last few years I have seen] that the focus is going more and more to plant polyphenols and especially to berry paste products. If you look at those products, they are usually high [in] anthocyanins, and anthocyanins are known to target especially […] eye health, heart health, and now the latest studies show that anthocyanins are able to target the cognitive decline,” according to Hardewig. “This is also a nutrient movement that is very beneficial for the aging population.”

Meanwhile, Director of Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM Nutritional Products, Human Nutrition & Science of Greater China Weiguo Zhang agreed at Vitafoods Asia that healthy aging should be a concern early in life: “I don’t know from when, but 40 or even before that, we should start considering […] intervention or prevention. So apart from omega 3, we are interested in other ingredients and […] solutions.”

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