Living healthy lifestyle can fight existing signs of dementia, study finds

“We found that the lifestyle-cognition association was independent of Alzheimer’s disease pathology burden, suggesting that (a healthy) lifestyle may provide cognitive benefits even for people who have begun to accumulate dementia-related pathologies in their brains,” said lead author Dr. Klodian Dhana, an assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, via email.

In other words, the study found the presence of Alzheimer’s or another neurological disorder “didn’t seem to matter — the lifestyle changes provided the brain resilience against some of the most common causes of dementia,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida.

“It’s like a video game where you are shooting monsters,” said Isaacson, who wasn’t involved in the study. “The gun –the lifestyle changes — was able to defeat the ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires and zombies.”

Five healthy habits were tracked

For the study, autopsies were performed on 586 people living in retirement communities, senior housing and individual residences in the Chicago area who had participated in the Rush Memory and Aging Project between 1997 and 2022. The participants, who lived to an average age of 91, underwent regular cognitive and physical testing and filled out annual questionnaires on their lifestyles for over two decades before they died.

People in the study were categorized as living a low-risk or healthy lifestyle if they scored top marks in five different categories: they did not smoke; they did moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week; they kept their alcohol consumption to about one drink a day for women and two for men; and they regularly stimulated their brain by reading, visiting museums, and playing games like cards, checkers, crosswords or puzzles.

The fifth category measured how well they followed

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