Enhanced lifestyle changes overcome genetic Alzheimer's risk

Published: by Interim HealthCare

According to research presented by The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2017, one third of global dementia cases could be prevented with certain lifestyle factors. New research from a team at the University of Eastern Finland supports this notion. The researchers determined that enhanced lifestyle counseling can prevent cognitive decline, even in those who have a high genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's or dementia.

Enhanced lifestyle counseling

The researchers tested lifestyle counseling on participants with genetic risk for memory disorders who were 60 to 77 years old. Half of the participants were given regular lifestyle counseling while the other half received enhanced lifestyle counseling, which included nutrition guidance, physical and cognitive exercises and heart disease management.

The researchers knew from previous experiments that enhanced lifestyle counseling significantly reduced the risk of cognitive and functional impairment, when compared the regular counseling. However, the goal for this study was to determine whether the enhanced methods would still be effective on those with the APOE4 gene, a common risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. 362 of the 1,109 participants carried the gene, and the results showed that they still benefited from the counseling.

Therefore, the researchers concluded that the prevention benefits of enhanced lifestyle counseling are not affected by the presence of genetic risk factors. Adjunct Professor Alina Solomon, lead author of the study, explained, "Many people worry that genetic risk factors for dementia may thwart potential benefits from healthy lifestyle changes. We were very happy to see this was not the case in our intervention."

What makes these results even more promising is the fact that the study's intervention occurred before the onset of major cognitive decline. That means these lifestyle changes could potentially delay or prevent the symptoms of cognitive decline before they even begin.

Lifestyle habits

The Alzheimer's Association has always recommended adopting certain lifestyle habits as preventative measures to reduce the risk of severe cognitive decline. Even without counseling, at-risk adults can be conscious of the same lifestyle changes for healthy aging, such as:

    Engage in regular exercise that gets blood pumping to the brain.

    Don't smoke cigarettes.

    Maintain healthy eating habits, such as following the Mediterranean diet.

    Make sure you're getting enough sleep.

    Stay socially engaged with friends and community groups.

    Learn something new to challenge your brain.

The researchers hope future clinical trials will analyze the effects of enhanced lifestyle counseling on a variety of diverse populations, locations and cultural backgrounds to develop new standards in Alzheimer's and dementia prevention strategies.

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