Healthy Lifestyle Can Slow Memory Decline in Older Adults: Study Finds
A new study from China has found that a healthy lifestyle can be associated with a slower decline in memory among older adults. The 10 year, population based, prospective cohort study saw that those with favourable or average lifestyles were almost 90 per cent and almost 30 per cent less likely to develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment relative to those with an unfavourable lifestyle, and the APOE group had similar results.
A score based on six elements of a healthy lifestyle was then calculated: diet, exercise, social interaction (e.g. visiting with friends and family), cognitive engagement (e.g. writing, reading, playing mahjong), non-smoking, and abstaining from alcohol.
In order to investigate further, 29,000 elders (average age 72; 49% female) with normal cognitive functioning, who were participants of the China Cognition and Aging Study, were studied. In 2009, memory capacity was evaluated using tests, and participants were tested for the APOE gene, which is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Assessments were conducted on a recurring basis over the following decade.
It is recommended to consume at least seven of the twelve food groups in order to have a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, cereals, legumes, nuts, and tea. At least two times a week, cognitive activity could involve writing, reading, playing cards, or other games. Engaging in social contact at least twice a week was another healthy habit. Activities like seeing family and friends, participating in meetings, or attending parties were included. Around 20 per cent of the study cohort carried a particular gene variant known to increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This group showed that by combining several healthy lifestyle behaviors, the rate of memory decline was slowed, indicating that lifestyle adjustments may be beneficial for those with a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s.
As this was an observational study, no causal relationships could be established. The researchers were aware of certain limitations, including the potential for measurement errors due to participants self-reporting lifestyle factors, and the possibility of selection bias, as some participants did not return for follow-up evaluations.
It is proposed that the same strategy which produced a large decrease in cardiovascular disorder should also be utilized for preventing dementia – by establishing which factors are most important, the degree to which those factors affect the disease, and the age at which intervention is likely to be the most beneficial.
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