7 lifestyle habits that can halve your risk of dementia

  • More than 55 million people are living with dementia and it is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide.
  • Research shows that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the chances of getting dementia, even for people whose genes put them at greater risk.
  • Scientists have shown that 7 healthy habits seem to stop up to 43% of people from developing the condition.
  • Eating well, exercising, and not smoking all play an important role in preventing dementia.

Researchers have found that people whose genes put them at greater risk for dementia can reduce their chances of contracting the condition by up to 43% if they follow seven habits for healthy living.

It was already thought that a healthy lifestyle could reduce the risk of dementia, but until now it has been less clear whether this applies to people with genetic variants that make them more likely to develop the condition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that dementia is the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases in the world and is responsible for millions of elderly people suffering from disability and addiction. With the proportion of elderly people on the rise in nearly all countries, WHO predicts that cases of dementia will rise to 139 million by 2050.

Genetic risk

A study by the American Academy of Neurology investigated whether people with a higher genetic risk could reduce their chances of contracting the condition. The researchers followed nearly 12,000 people for 30 years and rated them based on how closely they followed the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7, a list of lifestyle habits linked to good cardiovascular health.

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Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of dementia, even for people genetically predisposed to developing the condition.

Image: American Heart Association

1. Manage your blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure within a healthy range reduces strain on the heart, arteries and kidneys.

2. Check your cholesterol. High cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.

3. Lower your blood sugar. High blood sugar levels can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

4. Get active. There is strong evidence that daily physical activity increases the length and quality of your life.

5. Eat better. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease.

6. Lose weight. Losing a few pounds can reduce the load on the heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton.

7. Stop smoking. Smokers have an increased risk of developing a number of serious diseases, including heart disease.

Participants in the dementia study were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 14 depending on how closely they followed all seven healthy habits. The researchers also calculated their genetic risk, based on whether they had variants linked to a greater or lesser likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s disease, which is a leading cause of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease, the result of the rapid aging that causes dementia, is a growing concern. Dementia, the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, cost the world $ 1.25 trillion in 2018 and affected an estimated 50 million people in 2019. Without major breakthroughs, the number of people affected will triple by 2050, to 152 million.

To catalyze the fight against Alzheimer’s, the World Economic Forum is partnering with the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) to form a coalition of public and private stakeholders, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, biotech companies, governments, international organizations, foundations and research agencies. .

The initiative aims to advance preclinical research to advance understanding of the disease, attract more capital by reducing risks for investments in biomarkers, develop permanent clinical trial platforms and advance health system readiness in the fields of detection, diagnosis , infrastructure and access.

A healthy lifestyle

Participants had an average age of 54 when the research began. About 9,000 had European origins and 3,000 African origins.

By the end of the study, 1,603 people of European ancestry and 631 people of African ancestry had developed dementia. Those with the highest scores for following a healthy lifestyle were far less likely to have dementia, including participants who had Alzheimer’s-related genetic variants.

Study author Adrienne Tin, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, says, “The good news is that even people who are at higher genetic risk are living this same healthier lifestyle. [is likely to] lower risk of dementia “.

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Alzheimer’s is among the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Image: Statesman / Alzheimer’s Association

Risk factors

In those with European ancestry, participants with the highest scores for healthy living were up to 43% less likely to get dementia than those with the lowest scores. For those with African descent, following healthy habits was linked to a 17% lower risk of developing the condition. But the study authors say the fewer people with African heritage participating means the results are less certain for this group, so more research is needed.

Dr Rosa Sancho of Alzheimer’s Research UK told the Times: “The risk of dementia depends on many factors. Some, like our age and genetic makeup, we can’t change, while others, like diet and exercise, we can. This study supports the idea that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. “

While adopting these seven healthy habits can reduce the number of people suffering from dementia, it’s not just people who benefit. The World Health Organization says dementia also has high global social and economic costs. Informal carers, including family and friends, spend an average of five hours a day caring for the sick and the global financial account is projected to exceed $ 2.8 trillion by 2030.

There are many organizations around the world working to help accelerate progress in the prevention and treatment of the condition. The Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative is led by the World Economic Forum and the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease and is investing $ 700 million over six years in drug development and health diagnostics.

Speaking at a meeting of the DAC Learning Laboratory in May 2022, its co-chair, George Vradenburg, stressed the importance of remembering that Alzheimer’s can affect anyone, regardless of their economic, racial or geographic status.

“We are explicitly global. We want to make sure from the outset of this effort to engage low- and middle-income countries and to pay attention to all societies, all resource settings, and all racial and ethnic heritage as we move forward on the road to treating Alzheimer’s. “