Dementia is a term that describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily life.
It’s not a specific disease but represents a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term decrease in the ability to think and remember.
For example, dementia could cause someone to forget their way home from school or not recall their best friend’s name.
A Path to Lower Dementia Risk
A recent study shows that practicing seven healthy habits can lower the risk of dementia.
Even for people who have a high genetic risk, meaning they have certain genes that make them more likely to get dementia, these habits can still help reduce their risk.
This study was published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Life’s Simple 7: A Guide to Better Health
So what are these seven habits? They are known as “Life’s Simple 7”, a guide by the American Heart Association. These seven habits focus on heart and brain health. They include:
- Being active (like playing a sport or going for a walk)
- Eating better (like choosing fruits over candies)
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Not smoking
- Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level
- Controlling your cholesterol (that’s a type of fat in your blood)
- Reducing your blood sugar (sugar levels in your blood)
The Study and Its Findings
In the study, researchers followed 8,823 people of European ancestry and 2,738 people of African ancestry for 30 years.
At the start, everyone was about 54 years old on average. Everyone reported how well they followed the seven health habits.
Researchers also figured out everyone’s genetic risk for dementia. They did this using information from their genes that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a common type of dementia.
In the end, 1,603 people with European ancestry and 631 people with African ancestry developed dementia.
The researchers found that those who followed the healthy habits had a lower risk of dementia, no matter what their genetic risk was.
Even the people with the highest genetic risk for dementia could reduce their risk by following the healthy habits.
For example, for every one-point increase in the lifestyle factor score (a score showing how well someone followed the healthy habits), there was a 9% lower risk of developing dementia for people with European ancestry.
A Few Cautions
There were fewer people of African ancestry in the study, so the researchers said they need to do more research to confirm their findings for this group.
They also noted that more research is needed in different population groups to confirm their results.
The Takeaway: Your Habits Matter
This study tells us that no matter what your genetic risk is, your lifestyle habits are crucial. By practicing Life’s Simple 7, you may lower your risk of dementia.
So remember to stay active, eat healthily, control your weight, avoid smoking, and maintain healthy levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar.
And remember, it’s never too early or too late to start these healthy habits!
If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.
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