According to a 2019 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and this number is expected to more than double by 2050. However, scientists are constantly working on discovering ways to lower Alzheimer’s risk before this projection becomes a reality—and recently, researchers unveiled findings that may put us one step closer to actually fighting off the disease.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Sunday, British, German, and American researchers revealed that they had identified five lifestyle habits that can lower Alzheimer’s risk, even if a person is genetically predisposed. Their study, which was recently published in the journal JAMA, analyzed the data of 196,383 UK adults age 60 and older and found that those who didn’t smoke, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy diet, drank in moderation, and engaged in mentally stimulating activities had a 60 percent reduced risk of dementia compared to those who did just one or none of these things.
Of course, it’s not exactly surprising that leading a healthy lifestyle really pays off; in fact, these highlighted habits correlate to the five habits that a 2018 Harvard study found could extend your life by over a decade. However, this new study is encouraging because it found that, even if you have a high genetic risk for dementia, making good lifestyle choices can still reduce your risk by 32 percent.
“This is the first study to analyze the extent to which you may offset your genetic risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle,” Dr Elzbieta Kuźma, a research fellow in neuroepidemiology at the University of Exeter Medical School and co-author of the study, said in a university newsletter. “Our findings are exciting as they show that we can take action to try to offset our genetic risk for dementia.”
So, if dementia does run in your family, know that you still have a lot more control than you might think. Just by quitting smoking, limited your alcohol intake, practicing meditation, and working out for 30 minutes a day, you can boost your chances of staying sharp well into old age.
“This research delivers a really important message that undermines a fatalistic view of dementia,” Dr. David Llewellyn, a senior research fellow in clinical epidemiology at the University of Exeter Medical School and co-author of the study, said in the same university newsletter. “Some people believe it’s inevitable they’ll develop dementia because of their genetics. However, it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.” And for more on this, check out 40 Habits to Reduce Your Risk of Dementia After 40.
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