Dementia: healthy lifestyle habits to reduce risk

A new US study has found that even individuals with the highest genetic risk of developing dementia can reduce their risk of suffering from it by adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

Professor Sylvie Belleville, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience in Aging and the Brain Brain at the University of Montreal, commented. “That’s a really good question, and here we have some very encouraging indications that yes, it’s very helpful. The seven lifestyle habits that the American Heart Association have suggested to protect heart and brain health are physical activity, not smoking, eating well, losing weight, and maintaining stress Healthy blood, control cholesterol, lower blood sugar.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center studied 8,823 people of European descent and 2,738 of African descent for 30 years. The mean age of subjects at the start of the study was 54 years. Subjects were awarded a score from 0 to 14 based on their adherence to these lifestyle habits, a scale against which 0 represents the worst possible score. The average score for participants of European descent was 8.3 while the average score for participants of African descent was 6.6. Subjects of European ancestry were divided into five categories according to risk of hereditary dementia, and subjects of African ancestry, because they were the fewest, among three categories.

In both cases, people in the most risky category had at least one copy of the APOE e4 gene variant, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, the lowest-risk category had the APOE e2 variant, which was associated with a lower risk of dementia. At the end of the study, 1,603 people of European descent and 631 people of African descent had dementia. But in the group of participants of European descent, the researchers found that those with the highest scores on adherence to lifestyle habits had reduced risk of dementia in all five categories, including the one with the highest genetic risk. For each point of increase in the lifestyle habits score, the risk of developing dementia was reduced by 9%.

If we compared the ‘low’, ‘moderate’ and ‘high’ categories of adherence to lifestyle habits, the ‘moderate’ and ‘high’ categories, respectively, were associated with a 30% and 43% lower risk of dementia. Among people of African descent, these percentages were 6% and 17%, respectively. Professor Belleville states that dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, is a very complex problem, and multiple factors, genetic, behavioral and others, can have an impact on when the disease appears (or not) and on the significance of symptoms. “Genes certainly contribute, but other factors will contribute to the development of disease, but they will also contribute to the protections that we can put in place to protect ourselves from the effects of disease on our cognition,” she explained. .

Ms. Belleville continues, “genetic risk” remains “risk” rather than a certainty. And while genetics is one of the risks, such as age, which cannot be changed, other risk factors, such as diet, physical inactivity and smoking, to name a few, can be modified. “People who are at risk sometimes have a kind of defeatist attitude,” she said. On the contrary, it should motivate us to change the most modifiable risk factors. (…) There are many things that we influence as an individual and as a society. The cumulative effect of each small change in the right direction can end up being an interesting one, Belleville said.

Now that a study has shown a strong association between good lifestyle habits and a reduced risk of dementia, it will be interesting to know the impact of interventions that will encourage people to improve their lifestyle, as estimated in the conclusion. This study was published in the medical journal Neurology.

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