Healthy living fights cognitive decline

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 3 months ago

A recent observational study has found that living a healthy lifestyle can help protect against cognitive decline, even in individuals with signs of Alzheimer's or other brain pathologies. The study, which examined the brains of 586 individuals during autopsies and compared the findings with up to 24 years of lifestyle data, found that a healthy lifestyle was associated with cognitive benefits, regardless of the presence of dementia-related pathologies.

Lead author Dr. Klodian Dhana, an assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine, stated that the lifestyle-cognition association was independent of Alzheimer's pathology burden. This suggests that a healthy lifestyle may provide cognitive benefits for individuals who have already begun to accumulate dementia-related pathologies in their brains.

Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, compared the lifestyle changes to a video game where the changes acted as a weapon against the most common causes of dementia.

The study participants, who lived to an average age of 91, were categorized as living a healthy lifestyle if they scored top marks in five different categories. These categories included not smoking, engaging in regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, regularly stimulating the brain through activities such as reading and playing games, and following the MIND diet.

The MIND diet, developed in 2015, combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It focuses on consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and fish, while limiting red meat and sweets. The DASH diet specifically aims to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

The study team compared lifestyle data to various measures of brain pathology, including the presence of beta-amyloid, tau tangles, and signs of vascular brain damage. The study found that a higher healthy lifestyle score was associated with lower beta-amyloid load in the brain and higher cognitive performance scores.

While the study is observational and cannot prove a direct cause and effect relationship, it provides important insights into how lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The findings suggest that a healthy lifestyle can have cognitive benefits, even in individuals with existing brain pathologies.


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