Improving heart health in the middle of one’s life has been found to reduce risk factors for other ailments.

Researchers observed that improving heart health past the age of 50 may result in reduced risk factors for stroke and dementia, according to a new study released on February 2.

Touted by the American Heart Association in a recent press release, this research is preliminary and was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Dallas on February 8.

Researchers calculated cardiovascular health scores using AHA’s Life’s Simple 7. This method measures a participant’s diet, physical activity, weight, tobacco use, glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. This study was conducted before the organization added sleep to the list, changing the name of the method to “Life’s Essential 8.”

Participants in the study received two points for each of the items based on the fulfillment of goals. Fulfillment is judged to be either “poor, intermediate, or ideal.”

The Essential 8 guide also features a provision for weight management and encouraging balance. This provision suggests the use of exercise and portion control to aid in this endeavor.

Being overweight has been known to increase risks of cardiovascular afflictions and limitations, including stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers, and other medical conditions, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Cardiovascular exercise activities have also been found to increase overall health and aid in reducing obesity rates, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Researchers in the new study observed sets of health data collected from 1,638 participants. Scientists collected this information twice, with one data set collected at the average ages of 53 and 59 over two visits and another set at an average age of 76 years of age on a final visit.

Scientists conducted brain scans during the final visit, searching for cerebrovascular disease markers that indicate risk for stroke or dementia, such as microbleeds, infarcts, cell death, and “white matter hyperintensity volume,” according to the press release from the American Heart Association.

Scientists looked for these markers to observe how the health of one’s heart correlated to the health of the brain.

The data showed that 39% of the participants had increased cardiovascular health rates on the first visit, 32% on the third, and 33% on the final visit.

Researchers concluded that those who exhibited higher cardiovascular health scores in midlife and in old age showed a decrease in the aforementioned disease markers.

Sanaz Sedaghat, the lead author of the study, said that those who maintained ideal cardiovascular health “had 33% lower odds of brain microbleeds and 37% lower odds of having infarcts,” compared to others in the study whose scores had declined, noting the effects made by small improvements.

“For me, the interesting part is even one point makes a big difference,” said Sedaghat, according to the press release.

Scientists observed that every one-point score improvement was associated with approximately a 7% reduced risk for cerebrovascular damage.

Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, a professor in clinical neurological sciences at Western University, said that following the measures suggested in the study could “prevent a lot of brain damage,” according to the press release, which identified him as a leading expert in stroke and vascular dementia research.

“And you can see the results here,” he concluded.