In a new study from Maastricht University, researchers found people whose scores on a dementia risk test indicated a less brain-healthy lifestyle, including smoking, high blood pressure and a poor diet, may also have the following: lower scores on thinking skills tests, more changes on brain scans and a higher risk of cognitive impairment.
The study also found that in men, the test scores were linked to poor memory function and markers of brain shrinkage.
They also found that a substantial proportion of brain changes might be attributable to risk factors that can be modified.
In the study, the team examined 4,164 people with an average age of 59. All participants took a test called the “Lifestyle for Brain Health” (LIBRA). The total score reflects a person’s potential for developing dementia.
This study took into account 11 out of 12 lifestyle factors on the test, including high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, diet and physical activity.
Participants in the study took tests of memory and other thinking skills, such as information processing speed, executive function and attention.
The team found that people who were in the high-risk group on the brain test, indicating a less brain-healthy lifestyle, had higher volumes of brain lesions.
The high-risk group also had lower scores on two tests of thinking: information processing speed and executive function and attention.
Only in men, however, did researchers find links between higher scores on the brain and lifestyle test and lower volumes of grey matter, as well as lower scores on tests of memory.
The team says more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine why there were differences between men and women.
It’s exciting that a simple test score may indeed be an index of brain health.
Scientists need to learn whether people can improve their scores by making changes in their diet, increasing physical activity or limiting alcohol to low-to-moderate use.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about walking patterns may help identify specific types of dementia and findings of common high blood pressure drugs may help lower your dementia risk.
For more information about dementia and your health, please see recent studies about this tooth disease linked to cognitive decline, dementia and results showing that these personality traits may predict your dementia risk.
The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Sebastian Köhler Ph.D.
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