A healthy brain is critical for living a longer and fuller life. The projected aging of the population, however, raises new challenges in maintaining quality of life. As we age, there is increasing compromise of neuronal activity that affects functions such as cognition, also making the brain vulnerable to disease. Once pathology-induced decline begins, few therapeutic options are available. Prevention is therefore paramount, and primary care can play a critical role. The purpose of this American Heart Association scientific statement is to provide an up-to-date summary for primary care providers in the assessment and modification of risk factors at the individual level that maintain brain health and prevent cognitive impairment.
Building on the 2017 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association presidential advisory on defining brain health that included “Life’s Simple 7,” we describe here modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline, including depression, hypertension, physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, poor diet, smoking, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders, and hearing loss. These risk factors include behaviors, conditions, and lifestyles that can emerge before adulthood and can be routinely identified and managed by primary care clinicians.