The simple healthy habits that could slash your dementia risk

Mar 01, 2023
Utilising the 7 healthy habits could reduce dementia risk. Source: Getty Images.

Recent research has identified seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors that may play a role in lowering the risk of developing dementia.

The study’s findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th Annual Meeting being held in Boston from April 22-27, 2023.

The seven cardiovascular and brain health factors, known as the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7, are:

  • being active
  • eating better
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • not smoking
  • maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • controlling cholesterol
  • having low blood sugar

“Since we now know that dementia can begin in the brain decades before diagnosis, it’s important that we learn more about how your habits in middle age can affect your risk of dementia in old age,” said Pamela Rist, ScD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“The good news is that making healthy lifestyle choices in middle age may lead to a decreased risk of dementia later in life.”

The study involved 13,720 female participants with an average age of 54 at the commencement of the study.

Researchers followed up with participants 20 years later, examining Medicare data to identify those who had been diagnosed with dementia. Of the participants, 1,771, or 13 per cent, developed dementia.

After adjusting for factors like age and education, researchers found that for every increase of one point in the score, a participant’s risk of dementia decreased by 6 per cent.

Each of the seven health factors was assigned a score of zero for poor or intermediate health and one point for ideal health, resulting in a maximum score of 7. At the beginning of the study, the average score was 4.3, and it decreased to 4.2 ten years later.

“It can be empowering for people to know that by taking steps such as exercising for a half an hour a day or keeping their blood pressure under control, they can reduce their risk of dementia,” Rist added.

Following the release of the findings. Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK said the results add “to the overwhelming evidence that by being active and eating healthily in middle age, women can reduce their chances of dementia in later life”.

“Dementia affects everyone, but women are far more likely to develop it than men, and it’s now the leading cause of death among British women,” Mitchell said.

“Whatever our gender, we can all take simple steps to reduce our risk of dementia. Beyond being active and looking after our heart, getting a good night’s sleep, challenging our brain and keeping connected to the people around us, can all help reduce our chances of developing dementia.

“We’d encourage anybody who would like to know more about their own brain healthy behaviours to complete Alzheimer’s Research UK’s online Think Brain Health Check-in.”

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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