More than 29,000 new studies They identified six habits — from eating a variety of foods to regularly reading or playing cards — that are associated with a lower risk of dementia and memory loss in older adults.
While Researchers have known for a long time that there is a relationship between Dementia and factors such as social isolation and obesitythe size and scope of the new study adds to the growing body of empirical evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help the brain age better.
It also suggests that the effects of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial even for people who are genetically more vulnerable to memory loss – a “very promising” finding for the millions of people around the world who carry the APOEε4 gene. Eff Hogerwurst, Chair of Biological Psychology at Loughborough University, who was not involved in the study, told Alzheimer’s Disease.
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Memory is natural As people get older, it gradually decreases. Some older people may develop it. Dementia, an umbrella term that can include Alzheimer’s, and generally describes a deterioration of cognitive function beyond the normal effects of aging. But for many, “memory loss can be just forgetfulness,” write the BMJ study authors — like forgetting the name of your favorite TV show or a bad fact you’ve been meaning to look up.
Memory loss is nothing less than gradual damage, and age-related memory loss can be the first symptom of dementia in some cases. But the good news, the researchers say, is that “rather than becoming pathogenic, it may change or stabilize.”
The BMJ study was conducted between 2009 and 2019 in China. Researchers conducted tests on more than 29,000 people aged 60 and over and tracked their progress or decline over time – a population-based cohort study. Although more than 10,500 participants dropped out of the study over the next decade—some participants died or stopped participating—the researchers still used data from those individuals in their analysis.
At the beginning of the study, researchers conducted baseline memory tests as well as testing for the APOE gene. They also surveyed participants about their daily habits. Participants were divided into one of three groups based on their lifestyle – fit, average and unfit.
The six lifestyle factors that the researchers focused on include:
- Exercise: At least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
- Diet: Eating proper amounts of 12 food items (fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products, salt, oil, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts and tea) every day.
- Alcohol: Do not drink or drink infrequently.
- Smoking: Never smoking or being an ex-smoker.
- Cognitive activity: Exercising the mind at least twice a week (eg reading and playing cards or mah-jongg).
- Socializing: Connecting with others at least twice a week (by attending community meetings or visiting friends or relatives, for example).
In the course of the study, the researchers discovered that there are people in the The comfortable group (four to six healthy factors) and the average group (two to three) had slower memory than those with unhealthy lifestyles (zero to one healthy factor).
People who live a comfortable lifestyle that includes at least four healthy habits They were less likely to progress to mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
The results show that “more than these behaviors are better,” says Hogervorst – in other words, by combining more healthy lifestyles, the better your chances of preserving your memory and preventing dementia.
This is especially true for pregnant women APOE gene associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The authors of the study “These results provide an optimistic perspective, because although the genetic risk is not modifiable, a combination of more healthy lifestyles is associated with a lower memory speed,” the authors of the study wrote.
The study stood out because of its size and follow-up, and because it was conducted in China, and “most publications are based on Western high-income countries,” Carol Breen, a professor of public health medicine at the University of Cambridge who studies older adults and dementia, said in an email.
However, the study’s authors acknowledge several limitations, including that people’s self-reports of health behaviors may not be entirely accurate, and that the people who participated in the study were more likely to lead healthy lives in the first place.
Some of the study’s findings differ from the results of other large studies in the US and Europe, Hogerverst said. For example, a BMJ study found that the lifestyle with the greatest impact in reducing memory loss is a balanced diet. Other studies show that diet is less valuable than physical and mental exercise in old age, says Hogerverst.
Still, the results fit with the broad scientific consensus that there’s a link between how we live and our cognitive function as we age—and, perhaps more importantly, suggest that it’s never too late to improve your brain health.
“The overall message from the study is positive,” Snorri B. Rafnsson, associate professor of aging and dementia at the University of West London, said in an email. “This will have a positive effect on cognitive function, and especially memory, in later life on a regular and frequent basis in various health-related activities.”