Study shows seven ways to reduce risk of dementia for those with genetic risks

May 26, 2022
The recent study has shed light on the link between healthy habits and reduced risk of developing dementia. Source: Getty Images.

A recent study has found that those with a genetic risk of dementia can reduce their risk of developing the condition with seven simple lifestyle changes.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland collected data from more than 11,000 people, with an average age of 54, in the US between 1987 to 2019. The participants were followed by researchers for 26 years.

As part of the Genetic Risk, Midlife Life’s Simple 7, and Incident Dementia in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, researchers developed a scoring system for each participant based on seven health factors outlined by the American Heart Association. These factors were: stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, remain physically active, control blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Participants reported their levels in all seven health factors.

For people with European ancestry, researchers found that people with the highest scores in the lifestyle factors had a lower risk of dementia across all five genetic risk groups, including the group with the highest genetic risk of dementia.

They also saw similar results for people of primarily African descent.

Researcher Adrienne Tin said the findings highlighted the importance of incorporating these healthy habits in reducing dementia risk.

“The good news is that even for people who are at the highest genetic risk, living by this same healthier lifestyle are likely to have a lower risk of dementia,” Tin said.

“These healthy habits in the Life’s Simple 7 have been linked to a lower risk of dementia overall, but it is uncertain whether the same applies to people with a high genetic risk.

“Larger sample sizes from diverse populations are needed to get more reliable estimates of the effects of these modifiable health factors on dementia risk within different genetic risk groups and ancestral backgrounds.”

Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Rosa Sancho said the “study supports the idea that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain” but stressed future research will need to widen its parameters to examine all forms of dementia.

“Although the researchers monitored participants for all forms of dementia, when grouping people according to genetic risk they focused only on genes that increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease, just one cause of dementia. Also, health scores were taken at the start of the study, but what we don’t know is whether the participant’s healthy habits lasted for the duration of the study,” she said.

“For a better understanding of how healthy living could help to overcome genetic risk, future research will need to incorporate risk genes for all forms of dementia. Ideally future studies should also include continually monitoring health habits in the participants to assess long-term effects of a healthy lifestyle.”

Another recent study from the University of East Anglia (UEA)  shed more light on reducing the risk of dementia. The study found that introducing a few cranberries into your diet can help improve memory and brain function, with the findings offering hope of preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

The Chronic Consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 Weeks Improves Episodic Memory and Regional Brain Perfusion in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Groups Feasibility Study is the first of its kind in examining the impact cranberries have on brain health. Over a 12 week period, researchers studied the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries among 60 subjects aged between 50 and 80 years old.

Half of the participants consumed freeze-dried cranberry powder daily while the other half consumed a placebo.

UEA’s Norwich Medical School Lead Researcher, Dr David Vauzour said “we wanted to find out more about how cranberries could help reduce age-related neurodegeneration”

“The participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition – specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” he said.

“The cranberry group also exhibited a significant decrease in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, known to contribute to atherosclerosis – the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery. This supports the idea that cranberries can improve vascular health and may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition,” he said.

“Demonstrating in humans that cranberry supplementation can improve cognitive performance and identifying some of the mechanisms responsible is an important step for this research field.”




IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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