new study With more than 29 thousand people 60 years or older She identified six habits — from eating a variety of foods to regular reading or playing cards — that are associated with a lower risk Mad and a slower rate of memory decline.
Eat a balanced diet, exercise your mind and body regularly, communicate regularly with others, and not drink or smoke Six “healthy lifestyle factors” were associated with better cognitive outcomes in older adults in a large, decade-long Chinese study published in the scientific journal BMJ last Wednesday, 25.
While researchers already know there is a link between dementia and factors such as social isolation and obesity, the size and scope of the new study adds substantial evidence to a global body of research suggesting that a healthy lifestyle can help the brain age better.
He also notes that the effects of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial even for people who are genetically more susceptible to memory decline – a “very promising” finding for the millions of individuals worldwide who carry the gene. APOEε4which is an important risk factor for Alzheimer’s diseasesaid Eve Högerforst, chair of biological psychology at Loughborough University, who was not involved in the study.
Memory naturally declines gradually with age. Some older people may develop dementia, which is an umbrella term that can include Alzheimer’s disease and generally describes a decline in cognitive function that goes beyond the normal effects of aging. But for many, “amnesia may simply be significant forgetfulness,” the authors of the BMJ study wrote — like forgetting the name of a TV show you loved or that inconvenient fact you wanted to dig up.
Memory loss is no less harmful because it is gradual, and age-related memory decline in some cases can be an early symptom of dementia. But the good news, say the researchers, is that it “can be reversed or become stable rather than progressing to a pathological condition.”
The study was conducted in China between 2009 and 2019, and tested more than 29,000 people aged 60 and over. The researchers tracked their progress or decline over time – what’s known as a population cohort study. Although more than 10,500 participants left the study over the next decade — some of the participants died or stopped participating — the researchers still used data collected from these individuals in their analyses.
At the start of the study, the researchers administered memory tests as well as tests for the APOE gene. They also interviewed the participants about their daily habits. Based on the responses, they were classified into one of three groups – favourable, moderate and unfavorable – based on their lifestyle.
The six modifiable lifestyle factors the researchers focused on included:
- Physical exercise: Do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
- Diet: Adequate daily intake of at least seven of the 12 food items (fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products, salt, oil, eggs, cereals, legumes, nuts and tea).
- Alcohol: Don’t drink or drink occasionally.
- Smoking: never smoked or be a former smoker.
- Cognitive activity: exercise the brain at least twice a week (reading, playing cards or mah-jongg, for example).
- Social: Connecting with others at least twice a week (attending community meetings or visiting friends or relatives, for example).
During the study period, the researchers found that people in the favored group (those with four to six health factors) and the average group (two to three) had a slower rate of memory decline over time than people with lifestyles with unfavorable habits. (From zero to a healthy one).
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People who lived supportive lifestyles that included at least four healthy habits were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
The results show that “more of these behaviors is better,” says Högerforst—in other words, the more healthy lifestyle factors you can combine, the higher your chances of preserving your memory and avoiding dementia.
Remarkably, this is true even for people who carry the APOE gene, which is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These findings offer an optimistic perspective, as they suggest that although genetic risk is not modifiable, a combination of healthy lifestyle factors is associated with a slower rate of memory decline, independent of genetic risk,” the authors write.
The study stands out for its size and follow-up over time, and for being conducted in China, while “most of the publications are in high-income Western countries,” said Carol Brain, professor of public health medicine at the University of Cambridge. He said in an e-mail, looking for elderly people with dementia.
However, the study authors acknowledged several limitations, including that people’s reports of healthy behaviors may not be entirely accurate and that people who participated in the study were more likely to lead healthy lives to begin with.
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Högerforst says some of the study’s findings differ from those of other large studies conducted in the United States and Europe. For example, the Chinese study found that the most influential lifestyle factor in reducing memory decline was eating a balanced diet. Other studies have indicated that diet is less important in aging than physical and mental exercise, Högerforst says.
However, their findings are in line with the broad scientific consensus that there is a link between our way of life and our cognitive function as we age — and perhaps more importantly, they suggest it’s never too late to improve brain health.
Sanuri b said: Ravenson, associate professor of aging and dementia University of West London, in an email. Namely, this cognitive function, particularly memory function, can be positively affected in later life by regular and frequent participation in various health-related activities.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”