Healthy lifestyle shown to decrease dementia risk up to 36 percent: study

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New evidence suggests that lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise and sleep, can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia.

More than one-third of residents in assisted living and other residential care communities have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, according to data from the Alzheimer’s Association.

A study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center published Monday in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology, found an association between healthy lifestyles and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among socioeconomically disadvantaged Americans.

Researchers concluded that promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing barriers to lifestyle changes are crucial to tackling the growing burden and disparities posed by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Research published recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report similarly examined risk factors for dementia, finding the prevalence was highest for individuals with high blood pressure and not meeting physical activity guidelines.

Vanderbilt researchers looked at data from 17,209 participants — 1,694 of whom received diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or related dementias during the four-year follow-up period.

Researchers looked at five lifestyle factors — tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure time physical activity, sleep hours and diet quality — and their effect on dementia risk.

Healthy lifestyles, they reported, were associated with an 11% to 25% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The benefits were seen regardless of sociodemographics and history of cardiometabolic disease and depression. When combined, a composite score of those five lifestyle factors was associated with a 36% reduced risk in the highest versus the lowest quartile. 

“Our findings support the beneficial role of healthy lifestyles in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among senior Americans, including those with socioeconomic disadvantages and a high risk of dementia,” study lead author Danxia Yu, Ph.D., said in a alzheimer-s-risk-and-disparities”>press release. “It is critical to establish public health strategies to make lifestyle modifications achievable for all, especially disadvantaged populations.”

The research is from the Southern Community Cohort Study, a long-term research study launched in 2001 to examine the root causes of various diseases and health disparities.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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