7 Habits to Lower the Risk of Dementia
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In a new study published in the American Academy of Neurology medical journal called Neurology, seven healthy lifestyle factors and habits can help reduce the risk of dementia in those with the most genetic risk.
The seven brain and cardiovascular health factors are called the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7: eating healthier, being active, losing weight, lowering blood sugar, regulating cholesterol, keeping healthy blood pressure, and not smoking.
The researchers tracked 2,736 individuals with African ancestry and 8,821 people with European heritage over 30 years. At the beginning of the study, the volunteers’ average age was 54.
Study volunteers reported the levels of these seven health factors. The scores range from 0 to 14, with 0 as the unhealthiest score and 14 as the healthiest one they can get. For example, Europeans scored on average 8.3, and people of African heritage scored on average 6.6.
Scientists calculated their genetic risk scores at the beginning of the study using the genome-wide statistics of Dementia, which has been used to study the genetic risk for Alzheimer’s.
Volunteers with European ancestors were put into five groups, and people of African descent were put into three groups because of their genetic risk scores.
The group with the highest genetic risk were people with at least one copy of the APOE gene variant, which is associated with Dementia, APOE e4.
People with European descent, 27.9% had the APOE e4 variant, and for those who had an African background, 40.4% had the APOE e4 variant. Contrarywise this, the people with the lowest risk contained the APOE e2 variant, which has a decreased risk of dementia.
At the end of the study, 1,601 people of European descent developed dementia, and 630 people of African descent developed dementia.
Scientists discovered that participants with the highest scores in lifestyle factors for those of European descent had a lower risk of dementia for the five genetic risk groups, which includes the group with the most genetic risk of dementia.
For every point increase in the lifestyle score, there was a 10% lower risk of dementia. Compared to the standard category of the lifestyle score of people of European descent, the intermediary and high categories are linked to a 30% and 45% lower risk for dementia.
Those of African descent, the middle and high categories were linked to a 5% and 16% lower risk for dementia.
For those of African descent, scientists discovered a similar pattern of dementia risk across all three of their groups in those with higher scores for lifestyle factors. Although scientists said the smaller number of volunteers in this group limited their findings, more research is needed.
A significant limitation of this study was a small sample size for people of African descent, and many African American volunteers were recruited from only one area.