April 21, 2024


Keep Fit & Healthy

Lower dementia risk linked to seven healthy habits and lifestyle changes

6 min read


Seven healthy habits could be linked to a lower chance of dementia in people at genetic risk of developing the condition, according to a new study.

Being active, eating better and losing weight are among the lifestyle changes that may play a role in reducing the risk.

The other factors include managing blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking, research suggests.

Researchers say the findings are good news as it confirms these habits are also helpful to people at the highest genetic risk of dementia.

“These healthy habits in the Life’s Simple 7 have been linked to a lower risk of dementia overall, but it is uncertain whether the same applies to people with a high genetic risk,” said Adrienne Tin, of the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in America.

“The good news is that even for people who are at the highest genetic risk, living by this same healthier lifestyle are likely to have a lower risk of dementia.”

The seven cardiovascular and brain health factors are known as the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7.

Mature Husband and wife playing hula hoop in the park
Keeping fit can reduce your dementia risks and improve heart health

The study looked at 8,823 people with European ancestry and 2,738 people with African ancestry who were followed for 30 years.

Researchers calculated the genetic risk scores at the start of the study.

The research found that the group with the highest genetic risk included those that had at least one copy of a gene variant – change in DNA – associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Of those with a European background, 27.9% had the gene, while of those who had African ancestry, 40.4% had it.

By the end of the study, 1,603 people with European ancestry developed dementia and 631 people with African ancestry developed dementia.

For people with a European background, researchers found that people with the highest scores in the lifestyle factors had a lower risk of dementia, including among the group with the highest genetic risk of dementia.

For each one-point increase in the lifestyle factor score, there was a 9% lower risk of developing dementia, the study found.

Two Black women cooking in domestic kitchen
Dementia researchers recommend eating healthy

The study found that in those with European ancestry, compared with the lowest score, the intermediate and high score categories were associated with 30% and 43% lower risk for dementia, respectively.

Among those with African ancestry, the intermediate and high categories were associated with 6% and 17% lower risk for dementia, respectively.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia risk depends on many factors.

“Some, like our age and genetic make-up, we cannot change, while others, like diet and exercise, we can.

“This study supports the idea that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain – and that this holds true even for people with a higher genetic risk of dementia, at least for participants of European ancestry.”

She continued: “Although the researchers monitored participants for all forms of dementia, when grouping people according to genetic risk they focused only on genes that increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease, just one cause of dementia.

“Also, health scores were taken at the start of the study, but what we don’t know is whether the participants’ healthy habits lasted for the duration of the study.”

She added that future research will need to include risk genres for all forms of dementia, and ideally continually monitor health habits.

The research is published in the Neurology journal.

The seven healthy habits linked to a lower risk of dementia

Senior Asian woman comparing prices for meat selection.
The dementia research studied seven healthy habits

Read on for the ‘Life’s Simple 7’ list by the American Heart Association which details lifestyle changes that can help people establish good cardiovascular health.

1. Manage blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer.

2. Control cholesterol

High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages.

3. Reduce blood sugar

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

4. Get active

Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.

5. Eat better

A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!

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6. Lose weight

When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too.

7. Stop smoking

Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.

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