Long-term study: These six factors prevent dementia

Dementia can affect anyone.

Long-term study: These six factors prevent dementia

Dementia can affect anyone. According to the German Alzheimer Society, around 1.8 million Germans were affected by the disease at the end of 2021. Most of them are over 65 years old. To date, there is no cure. However, you can start early to prevent dementia. Chinese scientists from the National Center for Neurological Disorders in Beijing have identified six factors that can prevent dementia in a long-term study.

The study is one of the largest and most complex that has ever been conducted on the subject. It began in 2009 and was conducted with 23,000 people over the age of 60. At the beginning, all test persons were examined for their memory ability and the so-called "APOE gene", which is considered a strong risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. The test subjects were then monitored for ten years through regular tests.

A value for a healthy lifestyle was calculated, which includes six factors: healthy nutrition, regular exercise, active social contacts, cognitive activity, non-smoking and no alcohol consumption.

Based on the score, from zero to six, the participants were divided into "lifestyle groups": Favorable (four to six healthy factors), average (two to three healthy factors) or unfavorable (0 to 1 healthy factors). They were also divided into groups of APOE gene carriers and non-carriers.

Eating at least seven of the 12 food groups fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products, salt, oil, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts and tea was considered healthy eating.

Writing, reading, playing cards or other games were counted as cognitive activities if they were performed at least twice a week.

Other criteria examined were abstinence from alcohol, more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or more than 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, and whether the test subjects had ever smoked or were ex-smokers.

Socializing at least twice a week was the sixth healthy factor. This included activities such as visiting family and friends, attending meetings, or attending parties.

After accounting for factors that might affect the results, the researchers found an encouraging result: each and every type of "healthy behavior" was associated with a slower-than-average decline in memory over the ten years studied.

A healthy diet had the greatest impact on slowing memory decline, followed by cognitive activity and physical activity.

Overall, people with four to six healthy behaviors were almost 90 percent less likely to develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment than people with no or only healthy lifestyles. With two to three healthy behaviors, it was at least 30 percent.

These results are not a guarantee that you will not suffer from dementia in old age. Scientists assume that genetic predispositions are another reason for developing dementia. In addition to healthy eating, sufficient sport and mental and social activities, the German Alzheimer Society e.V. also recommends treating illnesses such as high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias or diabetes.

Sources: Study National Center for Neurological Disorders Beijing, German Alzheimer Society e.V.