"Many people are anxious about developing dementia, [but] our results suggest that healthy lifestyle is associated with reduced risk of dementia regardless of genetic risk", co-author Elżbieta Kuzma tells The Post.
Among people with a high genetic risk score, 1.13% (95% CI 1.01%-1.26%) of those with a favorable lifestyle developed dementia, compared with 1.78% (95% CI 1.38%-2.28%) of those with an unfavorable lifestyle (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.51-0.90; P=0.008). Researchers grouped the participants into two groups: first -high, intermediate, and second - low genetic risk for dementia.
"This research is exciting in that it shows there are actionable things we can do to try to counteract genetic risk for dementia", said Elzbieta Kuźma, a research fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School who worked on the study.
A study which was published a few years ago noted that a healthy lifestyle could hamper the appearance of heart disease, and it is thought that the same effect could be achieved in the case of dementia. After eight years, nearly 2% of those with high genetic risk and poor health habits developed a form of dementia.
David Llewellyn, also of Exeter University, said the findings held an important message that undermined what he described as "a fatalistic view of dementia".
Sixty years old is still considered young in terms of developing dementia.
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The researchers defined a healthy lifestyle as not smoking, eating a balanced meal of three portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eating fish twice a week, and generally avoiding processed meats. The study has a number of limitations including that it can not show causality, lifestyle factors were self-reported and the study was restricted to adults of European ancestry so it may not be generalizable to other populations.
The aim was to assess the genetic risks of developing dementia.
The research further stated that adapting four to five lifestyle changes can cut the risk of any kind of dementia, including Alzheimer's. People who didn't now smoke, engaged in regular physical activity, had a healthy diet, and only had moderate levels of alcohol intake were considered to be part of the "favorable" group.
However, while the number of people at risk of dementia, because of age, is growing rapidly as the population ages, a person's individual odds of getting dementia have been going down, at least for the last two decades, Haaga said.
Dr Jessica Teeling, Professor in Experimental Neuroimmunology, University of Southampton who was not involved in the study pointed out that 'this study does not tell us if healthy lifestyle early or later in life determines reduced risk.
Synder said she expects to see more studies examining the role of lifestyle choices going forward.
The study, published in this week's issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, has several caveats.