Diet, social life and mental activity may help prevent dementia

A study found that doing activities such as reading or playing cards, visiting friends and family, and maintaining a healthy diet may help reduce the risk of dementia.

Experts say that a combination of healthy habits boosts the chances of avoiding conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in China created a chart of six beneficial behaviors, with a healthy diet considered eating at least seven out of 12 food groups (fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts, and tea).

Writing, reading, and playing cards or other games at least twice a week is another area of ​​healthy behaviour.

Other factors include abstaining from alcohol, exercising more than 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity or more than 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity, and never smoking.

Social contact at least twice a week, such as visiting loved ones, attending meetings, or going to parties, was the sixth healthy behavior.

The researchers analyzed data from 29,000 adults who were at least 60 years old (average age 72) with normal cognitive function and were part of a The China Study of Cognition and Aging.

At the start of the study in 2009, memory function was measured using tests and people were screened for the Apoe gene, the strongest risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Follow-up evaluations were conducted over the next ten years.

The people in the study were analyzed according to the number of healthy behaviors they had. Those with four to six were placed in the most favorable group.

After accounting for a range of factors likely to influence the results, the researchers found that each healthy behavior was associated with a slower-than-average decline in memory over a 10-year period.

A healthy diet had the strongest effect in slowing memory decline, followed by cognitive activity (writing, reading, playing games), and then physical exercise.

People with the Apoe gene who lived generally healthy lives also experienced a slower rate of memory decline than those with Apoe who were the least healthy.

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Overall, people with better health (four to six healthy behaviors) or even average (two to three) healthy lifestyles were nearly 90 percent more likely, and about 30 percent less likely to develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment compared to with those who were less healthy. .

write in British Medical JournalThe team said more research was needed but concluded that “a healthy lifestyle is associated with slower memory decline, even in the presence of … Apoe”.

“Very few of us know there are steps we can all take to reduce our chances of developing dementia later in life,” said Dr Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“This is a well-executed study, which followed people over a long period of time, and adds to the substantial evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help support memory and thinking skills as we age.

While the genes we inherit play an important role in our chances of developing dementia as we age, this research has found a link between a healthy lifestyle and slower cognitive decline even in people who carry the major Alzheimer’s risk gene.

“So it’s not either/or… This study suggests that making lifestyle changes can help all of us reduce risk, no matter what genetic cards we’re on…

“There is no sure way to prevent dementia. No one blames themselves or takes responsibility for a disease like Alzheimer’s.

“The best we can do is improve our chances of living longer with better cognitive health.”

Alzheimer’s disease affects one in 14 people over the age of 65 and one in six people over the age of 80.

Among the experts were staff from the National Center for Neurological Disorders in Beijing.

Updated: January 25, 2023, 11:31 PM