In a new study from Iowa State University, researchers found that adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors can lower dementia risk among people who are at higher risk due to a family history of dementia.
Familial dementia is a strong risk factor for dementia.
Having a first-degree relative such as a parent or sibling with the disease can increase a person’s risk of dementia by nearly 75% compared to someone who does not have a first-degree relative with the condition.
Other common risk factors for dementia include age, sex, race, education, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and depression.
In the study, the team analyzed health information on 302,239 men and women, ages 50-73 years. The adults were free of dementia at the beginning of the study and filled out questionnaires about family history and lifestyle.
Participants were given one point for each of six healthy lifestyle behaviors they followed, including:
Eating a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables, and less processed meat and refined grains; Meeting physical activity guidelines of 150 or more minutes a week of moderate-to- vigorous physical activity;
Sleeping 6 to 9 hours each day; Drinking alcohol in moderation; Not smoking; and Not having obesity, meaning they had a BMI (body mass index) of <30 kg/m.
Researchers then followed the study participants for about eight years to monitor who did and did not develop dementia.
They found: Adults with a family history of dementia had about a 70% increased risk of dementia compared to those who did not have a family history of dementia.
Following all six healthy lifestyle behaviors cut the risk of dementia by nearly half compared to following two or fewer healthy behaviors.
In general, following three of the healthy behaviors was linked to a 30% reduced risk of dementia compared to the following two or fewer behaviors.
Participants with familial dementia who followed at least three healthy lifestyle behaviors had a 25% to 35% reduced risk of dementia.
These results suggest that starting with small changes, like engaging at least three or more healthy lifestyle behaviors, can significantly lower the risk of dementia even for those at higher risk due to a family history of dementia.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about money problems in older people may signal early dementia and findings of dementia risk higher in people whose blood pressure only a bit high.
For more information about dementia treatment and prevention, please see recent studies about chronic inflammation linked to dementia and results showing that this heart problem may increase your dementia risk.
The study was presented at the Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021. One author of the study is Angelique Brellenthin, Ph.D.
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