Diet, Exercise May Deflect Dementia

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At-risk seniors who began eating right, exercising did better on memory/problem-solving tests.

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HealthDay News -- Seniors at risk for dementia may help safeguard their memory and ability to think by adopting a healthier lifestyle, according to researchers.

Miia Kivipelto, MD, PhD, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues presented findings from a two-year randomized controlled trial, the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The study involved 1,260 people aged 60 to 77 at risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Half of the participants received nutritional guidance, physical exercise, brain training, social activities, and management of heart health risk factors. The other half just received regular health advice.

The researchers found that, after two years, the group that underwent lifestyle changes performed significantly better on memory tests, problem-solving exercises, and quick-thinking quizzes. Only about 11% of participants dropped out after two years, which researchers took as a sign that the lifestyle changes weren't too onerous.

Keith Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association, told HealthDay that earlier studies have observed that each of these lifestyle changes might help fight dementia. But this is the first randomized clinical trial to put those findings to the test.

"This is the first study to definitively show that changing your lifestyle will reduce your risk for cognitive decline," he said.

The study authors plan an extended seven-year follow-up that will track the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's, and will include brain imaging scans.

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