As researchers continue investigating new drugs to stop Alzheimer’s disease, two recent studies point to a simplified approach to preventing dementia:
Stop smoking, say no to red meat, exercise at least 150 minutes and restrict alcohol use. That’s a great start. It’s not a cure, say researchers who presented a study at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July, but their work found that a combination of five lifestyle behaviors could reduce Alzheimer’s risk by 60 percent. A second study found lifestyle changes can reduce risk even for people genetically disposed to the disease.
Previous studies were more tightly focused on the relationships between specific lifestyle actions, such as diet or exercise, on dementia risk. Now, it appears the more lifestyle changes the lower the dementia risk. Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, which presented the report at the Alzheimer’s conference in Los Angeles, tracked more than 2,500 people and these lifestyle factors for close to a decade:
- Amount of physical activity
- Alcohol intake
- Cognitive activity
The researchers found that people with the healthiest lifestyles can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent. To accomplish that, you’d have to follow a low-fat diet, drink alcohol in moderation, not smoke, exercise at least 150 minutes a week at moderate to vigorous levels and experience late-life cognitive activities liking reading a daily newspaper or playing board games. (All study participants were enrolled in the federally funded Chicago Health and Aging Project or the Rush Memory and Aging Project, each long-term studies that monitor mental decline in aging area residents.)
In the study, the Rush team assigned each participant a numerical credit — 1 for for healthy, 0 for unhealthy – in each lifestyle category. Those who restricted alcohol use to one glass a wine a day received a 1. Those who read a daily newspaper earned a 1. People who totaled a score of 4 or 5, as in following that same number of healthy activities, were those who were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those with a 0 or 1.
The second study. from the University of Exeter Medical School in England, found that a similar formula of healthy activities also lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s for people with a high genetic risk.
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