Protecting the Middle-Aged Brain: Study Shows Healthy Lifestyle May Slow Memory Decline
Recent research has been exploring cognitive decline among middle-aged adults, and a new study has looked at ways to help protect the middle-aged brain against this decline. The study, which was published in the journal Neurology, found that a healthy lifestyle can be associated with slower memory decline in older adults.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the China Cognition and Aging Study, consisted of 29,000 adults aged at least 60 (average age 72; 49% women) with normal cognitive function. Memory function was measured using tests and people were checked for the APOE gene – the strongest risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease. They were then monitored for 10 years with periodic assessments.
The participants were put into lifestyle groups – favourable (four to six healthy factors), average (two to three healthy factors), or unfavourable (0 to 1 healthy factors) – and into APOE-carrier and non-carrier groups. The study revealed that when all other variables were taken into account, any single healthy behavior was linked to a decrease in memory decline over the course of a decade.
The six health behaviours included in the score were: a healthy diet; regular exercise; active social contact; cognitive activity; non-smoking; and not drinking alcohol. It is recommended to consume seven or more of the twelve following food groups for a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, cereals, legumes, nuts and tea. Next is a regular exercise routine. It was determined by the study that a healthy amount of exercise per week should consist of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity.
Dr. Susan Mitchell, who is the head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, declared, “Too few of us know that there are steps we can all take to reduce our chances of dementia in later life. This is a well-conducted study, which followed people over a long period of time, adds to the substantial evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help to support memory and thinking skills as we age.
The authors acknowledged the study’s limitations, including its observational design and the potential for measurement errors, owing to self-reporting of lifestyle factors. Additionally, some participants did not return for follow-up evaluations, leading to potential selection bias.“ The findings of this carefully conducted longitudinal study, which tracked individuals for an extended period, contribute to the significant body of research showing that living a healthy lifestyle can promote cognitive functioning in older adults.
The authors acknowledged the study’s limitations, including its observational design and the potential for measurement errors, owing to self-reporting of lifestyle factors. Some participants did not come back for subsequent assessments, resulting in a potential selection bias.
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