Seven healthy habits may help cut dementia risk, study says
Researchers present initial findings from a study that followed thousands of US women for about 20 years.
Seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors may play a role in reducing the risk of dementia, according to a two decade-long study.
Being active, eating a better diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, keeping normal blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and having low blood sugar in middle age may all lower the chances of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease later in life, research suggests.
The preliminary findings, from a study that followed thousands of US women for about 20 years, are being presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston.
“Since we now know that dementia can begin in the brain decades before diagnosis, it’s important that we learn more about how your habits in middle age can affect your risk of dementia in old age,” said Pamela Rist, an associate epidemiologist in the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“The good news is that making healthy lifestyle choices in middle age may lead to a decreased risk of dementia later in life.”
Dementia is one of the world’s biggest health threats. The number of people living with the condition worldwide is forecast to nearly triple to 153 million by 2050, and experts have said it presents a major and rapidly growing threat to future health and social care systems in every community, country and continent.
1. Being active
2. Eating a better diet
3. Maintaining a healthy weight
4. Not smoking
5. Keeping normal blood pressure
6. Controlling cholesterol
7. Having low blood sugar
The US study echoes similar findings from Chinese researchers who last month said a combination of healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well, regularly exercising, playing cards and socialising at least twice a week may help slow the rate of memory decline and reduce the risk of dementia (read article here).
The US study involved 13,720 women aged 54 on average at the start of the research.
After more than two decades of follow-up, researchers examined health data to identify those diagnosed with dementia. A total of 1,771 women, or 13% of those in the study, developed the condition.
For each of the seven health factors, people were given a score of zero for poor or “intermediate” health, and one point for ideal health, leading to a total possible score of seven. The average score was 4.3 at the start of the study and 4.2 a decade later.
After adjusting for factors such as age and education, researchers found that for every increase of one point in the score, a person’s risk of dementia fell by 6%.
“It can be empowering for people to know that by taking steps such as exercising for half an hour a day or keeping their blood pressure under control, they can reduce their risk of dementia,” said Rist.
The US researchers cautioned that there were limitations to their study, including the fact they were unable to look at how factors such as quitting smoking influenced the risk of dementia later in life.
Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the study added to overwhelming evidence that by being active and eating healthily in middle age, people could reduce their chances of dementia in later life.
“Beyond being active and looking after our heart, getting a good night’s sleep, challenging our brain and keeping connected to the people around us can all help reduce our chances of developing dementia,” she added.
– Seven healthy habits may help cut dementia risk, study says. The Guardian. By Andrew Gregory, 28 February 2023. Read article
– Seven healthy habits that could help cut risk of dementia, according to scientists. Independent. By Jane Kirby, 21 March 2023. Read article
– Seven healthy habits may help cut the risk of dementia, study suggests. Sky News. 28 February 2023. Read article