This is the best way to protect against dementia

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

A study examined the impact of six different lifestyle factors in lessening the chance of disease

A healthy diet may be the best way to protect against dementia, a BMJ study suggests.

The research, involving almost 30,000 adults aged 60 and over, found lifestyle changes could make a significant reduction in the likelihood of disease.

Overall, age is the most significant factor. 

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated one in six people over 80 and one in three by the age of 90, with the highest risk in those carrying genes linked to the disease.  

The new study, carried out in China, examined the impact of six different lifestyle factors in lowering the chance of disease

It found that overall, those with the healthiest lifestyles were almost 90 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

Having a varied and healthy diet – made up of at least seven of 12 food groups – was identified as the strongest protective factor. This was followed by “cognitive activity”, such as playing cards or reading, and regular physical exercise, such as a 20-minute brisk walk daily

Other factors – such as regular social contact with family and friends, not smoking, and cutting out alcohol – also lowered the risk, but to a lesser degree. 

Researchers said further studies were needed to establish exactly which lifestyle changes could make the most significant impact, or at what stage of life they made the most difference.

The China Cognition and Aging Study deemed a healthy diet as eating at least seven out of 12 food groups (fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, cereals, legumes, nuts and tea).

At the start of the study in 2009, memory function was measured using tests and people were checked for the APOE gene – the strongest risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease.



Follow-up assessments were then carried out over the next 10 years.

The people in the study were analysed according to how many healthy behaviours they had, with those with four to six healthy behaviours being put in the most favourable group.

Overall, those in the highest and medium groups were almost 90 per cent less likely to develop dementia and almost 30 per cent less likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment relative to those who were the least healthy.

The slower rate of memory decline seen in those with a healthy lifestyle was also seen in those with the APOE gene. 


This is the best way to protect against dementia

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