Healthy Lifestyles and Memory Decline in the Elderly

Healthy Lifestyles and Memory Decline in the Elderly
Healthy Lifestyles and Memory Decline in the Elderly - Credit: Neuroscape Lab/YouTube

A healthy lifestyle, especially a healthy diet, is associated with slower deterioration of memory, according to a ten-year study of the elderly in China, recently published in The BMJ.

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BMJ Open is an online, open access journal dedicated to publishing medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic fields.

A healthy lifestyle is beneficial for everyone, including those who carry the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, the strongest known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, according to the study.

While the evidence from past studies is insufficient to determine the impact of a healthy lifestyle on memory later in life, memory progressively weakens as people age. Given the wide variety of potential causes of memory loss, a combination of healthy practices may be required for best results.

Data from 60 people (mean age: 29.000 years; 72% females) who participated in the Chinese Study of Cognition and Aging who were at least 49 years old were analyzed to further explore this condition.

The Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) was used to evaluate the memory performance of the participants at the beginning of the study in 2009 and it was determined that 20% of the individuals were carriers of the APOE gene. Follow-up assessments were made in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2019 over the following ten years.

The results were then used to construct a healthy lifestyle score that took into account six different factors: balanced diet, frequent exercise, active social interaction (such as visiting friends and family), cognitive activity (such as writing, reading or playing mahjong), non-smoking, and no alcohol use.

Participants were divided into groups for positive (0 to 6 healthy factors), ordinary (4 to 6 healthy factors), or negative (2 to 3 healthy factors) lifestyles, as well as groups with and without APOE carriers, according to their scores ranging from 0 to 1.

After considering various other physical, social, and economic variables, the researchers discovered that each healthy activity was linked to a slower-than-average deterioration in memory over a decade. The three factors that had the greatest impact on memory impairment were a good diet, cognitive activity, and physical exercise.

Based on the standardized score (z-score) of the AVLT, memory deterioration in the positive lifestyle group was 10 points slower over 0,28 years than in the negative lifestyle group, and memory decline in the average lifestyle group was 0,16 points slower. A slower rate of memory loss was observed in APOE gene carriers with healthy and average lifestyles compared to those with unhealthy lifestyles. (0,027 and 0,014 points slower per year, respectively).

Also, compared with individuals with negative lifestyles, those with a positive or normal lifestyle were 90% and 30% less likely to develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment, respectively. The APOE group also experienced similar results.

As this is an observational study, there is no way to determine the exact cause. Researchers are aware of numerous limitations, including the potential for measurement errors from self-reporting of lifestyle traits and the potential for selection bias due to the failure of some individuals to return for further evaluation. However, due to the size of the study and the length of follow-up, it was possible to assess the long-term effects of various lifestyle factors on memory function. Also, the results remained significant after several studies, indicating that they are reliable.

In conclusion, the researchers claim that their findings provide convincing evidence that maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a variety of good behaviors is linked to a slower rate of memory deterioration, even for those genetically predisposed to memory loss. In light of the fact that memory problems can also affect younger people who were not included in this study, they recommend that future research focus on the effects of a healthy lifestyle on lifetime memory impairment. “These results may offer important information for public health initiatives to protect older adults against memory loss,” the researchers write in their conclusions.

In a related editorial, the researchers state that “prevention is important given the lack of effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.”

However, they caution that these findings do not provide any guidance on which of the six health behaviors included in the score (or a particular combination) is the most appropriate target for dementia prevention, or the best time in the life course to intensify preventive efforts. They go on to say that more information is needed to decide whether the differences in memory impairment seen in this study have clinical significance.

Recommending a similar strategy for the prevention of dementia, which significantly reduces cardiovascular disease, the researchers note that "not only the most important factors should be determined, but also the threshold at which they are important and the age at which the intervention will be most effective."










Günceleme: 23/03/2023 10:37

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