A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, regular exercise, not smoking and alcohol intake might reduce the risk for dementia in those who have a high genetic risk, new research suggests.
Recent figures show there are about 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and it is the top cause of death for women in the country. There are many studies have indicated that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing such conditions. A recent report suggested that a third of these cases could be prevented by tackling factors like blood pressure, exercise, hearing, and diet. Additional, in May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released guidelines on how to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle.
However, it is still unclear whether or not those measures have the same effect on people with a high genetic risk. Now experts say it seems they do.
Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), British researcher Llewellyn and colleagues reported how they came to this conclusion by studying data that was collected as part of the UK Biobank – a wider research endeavour, including about 200,000 individuals of European ancestry aged 60 or more and who did not have cognitive or dementia problems at the outset.
Over about eight-year follow-up, those with the highest genetic risk were at a 91% higher dementia risk in comparison with those with the lowest. Those that had the worst lifestyle scores were at a 34% higher risk in comparison with those with the best. However, people with both the highest genetic risk and the worst lifestyle scores were at nearly triple the risk of those who had the best scores in both domains.
There was no correlation between lifestyle score and genetic risk score, suggesting that lifestyle is an independent factor for dementia risk.
Because the study was observational, it cannot determine whether or not an unhealthy lifestyle actually causes dementia, only that there was an association between them.