Following the American Heart Association’s guidelines for good cardiovascular health may also help participants reduce dementia risks, French researchers have found.

The “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines emphasize managing blood pressure and cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, staying physically active, following a healthy diet, losing weight (if needed) and stopping smoking (or never starting). Researchers from the department of Epidemiology and Neurodegenerative Diseases at Inserm, a research institution affiliated with the University of Paris, explored whether the seven health factors for improving heart health could also impact future dementia risk.

The team reviewed data from 7,899 participants, all of whom were British men and women in their 50s without dementia and whom had participated in a previous study of socio-behavioral factors on long-term health from 1985-1988. The French researchers then tracked dementia cases through 2017 to determine how many participants developed dementia at an average age of 75 and scored each individual on their level of adherence to the seven parameters.

The research team determined that those with a high adherence score had a lower risk of developing dementia. Magnetic resonance imaging scans also showed that those who adhered more strictly to Life’s Simple 7 at age 50 also had greater brain and grey matter volume at age 70.

“This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health,” the researchers wrote.

The study results were published in The BMJ.