Healthy Lifestyle May Help Offset Cognitive Decline Even in Dementia Patients

According to a recent study, eating healthily, exercising, and abstaining from alcohol and tobacco can all help prevent or slow mental decline. The study revealed that by adopting these healthy practices, even individuals with dementia experienced less decline.

A healthy lifestyle is known to have a tremendous positive impact on our mental and physical well-being, and a recent study suggests that it may also maintain our cognitive abilities as we age.

The study, published in JAMA Neurology, discovered that living a healthy lifestyle — being physically active, eating healthily, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake — can decrease cognitive loss, even in persons with neuropathologies like dementia [1].

Although more research is required to fully understand the role of lifestyle factors, scientists believe that healthy activities improve vascular function, reduce inflammation in the brain, and support brain cell growth and plasticity.

People With Healthier Lifestyle Exhibited Better Brain Function

The researchers examined the health records of 586 people who participated in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study from 1997 to 2022 [2].

The subjects were dead and autopsied. The study contained information regarding the person’s cognition, lifestyle characteristics, and neuropathologic evaluation results.

Every person was given a lifestyle score, which went from 0 to 5, based on factors such as their diet, level of regular physical activity, use of alcohol or tobacco, and participation in cognitive activities.

The researchers discovered that a healthier lifestyle was associated with improved cognitive function, irrespective of whether the patients had brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Reduced levels of beta-amyloid plaque, a protein that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, were also linked to higher lifestyle scores.

It implies that lifestyle factors may maintain brain function in older adults, even in those who are actively undergoing cognitive decline.

How to Protect Your Cognitive Function

Research continuously demonstrates that leading a healthy lifestyle has several positive effects on cognition and may even lower the risk of dementia in individuals who are genetically susceptible to the illness [3].

According to a recent study, modifying 12 risk factors, many of which are associated with a healthy lifestyle, could delay or avert up to 40% of dementia diagnoses [4].

Although further investigation is required, scientists have a few theories about how and why lifestyle factors affect cognition.

According to some experts, adopting healthy lifestyle practices that support brain health, like physical activity and cognitive stimulation, can assist in improving heart health, boosting brain activity, and increasing brain volumes, besides increasing blood flow to the brain [5].

For instance, research has shown that a healthy lifestyle improves vascular function in the body, lowering the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and, eventually, dementia [6].

Furthermore, lifestyle variables may support neuroplasticity—the brain’s capacity to create new connections between brain cells—and neurogenesis, or the growth of brain cells. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may also shield the brain against oxidative stress and neuroinflammation [7].

Investing in Your Health Today Can Pay Off in the Future

According to research, engaging in 150 minutes of physical activity each week, eating a well-rounded diet, spending time with friends and family, and engaging in cognitively demanding activities are all recommended.

The effects of lifestyle on cognitive performance are most prominent in older persons without dementia.

According to research, engaging in 150 minutes of physical activity each week [8], eating a well-rounded diet, spending time with friends and family, and engaging in cognitively demanding activities are all recommended.

The effects of lifestyle on cognitive performance are most prominent in older persons without dementia. However, engaging in social, mental, and physical activities may be beneficial even for people who already have brain disorders.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. It aims to increase public awareness and motivate individuals to donate money or their time to support and research. Besides raising awareness about Alzheimer’s, it aims to provide opportunities to raise funds for research and support services for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Donate to the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation to help us support the Alzheimer’s family caregivers and provide them with resources.

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  1. Dhana, K., Agarwal, P., James, B.D., Leurgans, S.E., Rajan, K.B., Aggarwal, N.T., Barnes, L.L., Bennett, D.A. and Schneider, J.A., 2024. Healthy Lifestyle and Cognition in Older Adults With Common Neuropathologies of Dementia. JAMA neurology.
  2. Memory and Aging Project. Rush University. Accessed: 30th May, 2024.
  3. Lourida, I., Hannon, E., Littlejohns, T.J., Langa, K.M., Hyppönen, E., Kuźma, E. and Llewellyn, D.J., 2019. Association of lifestyle and genetic risk with incidence of dementia. Jama, 322(5), pp.430-437.
  4. Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., Banerjee, S., Brayne, C., Burns, A., Cohen-Mansfield, J., Cooper, C. and Costafreda, S.G., 2020. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 396(10248), pp.413-446.
  5. Healthy Lifestyle May Offset Cognitive Decline Even in People With Dementia. Healthline. Published Online: 6th February, 2024. Accessed: 30th May, 2024.
  6. Elwood, P., Galante, J., Pickering, J., Palmer, S., Bayer, A., Ben-Shlomo, Y., Longley, M. and Gallacher, J., 2013. Healthy lifestyles reduce the incidence of chronic diseases and dementia: evidence from the Caerphilly cohort study. PloS one, 8(12), p.e81877.
  7. Kip, E. and Parr-Brownlie, L.C., 2023. Healthy lifestyles and wellbeing reduce neuroinflammation and prevent neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 17, p.1092537.
  8. Wang, S., Liu, H.Y., Cheng, Y.C. and Su, C.H., 2021. Exercise dosage in reducing the risk of dementia development: Mode, duration, and intensity—A narrative review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(24), p.13331.
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