Risk of dementia 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they enjoy a healthy lifestyle, compared to those do not
Paul Gallagher | July 14th 2019
Experts encourage people to keep physically active to help reduce their risk of getting dementia (Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Living a healthy lifestyle may help offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia, according to the first study of its kind which has led to more calls for over-50s to exercise more often.
The University of Exeter-led research found that the risk of dementia was 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. Participants with high genetic risk and an unfavourable lifestyle were almost three times more likely to develop dementia compared to those with a low genetic risk and favourable lifestyle.
Academics analysed data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older from UK Biobank, which stores genetic data
The researchers identified 1,769 cases of dementia over a follow-up period of eight years and grouped people into those with high, intermediate and low genetic risk for dementia.
‘Living a healthy lifestyle may help offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia’ (Photo: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
To assess genetic risk, the researchers looked at previously published data and identified all known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Each genetic risk factor was weighted according to the strength of its association with Alzheimer’s disease.
To assess lifestyle, researchers grouped people into favourable, intermediate and unfavourable categories based on their self-reported diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
No current smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption were considered healthy behaviours. The team found that living a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced dementia risk across all genetic risk groups.
Joint lead author Dr Elżbieta Kuźma, at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “This is the first study to analyse the extent to which you may offset your genetic risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle. Our findings are exciting as they show that we can take action to try to offset our genetic risk for dementia. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced risk of dementia, regardless of the genetic risk.”
The study was simultaneously published on Sunday in the journal JAMA and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles.
Fiona Carragher, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “From research we supported, we know that a third of dementia cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes.
“Reassuringly, this study suggests that, even if you have a high genetic risk of developing dementia, adopting risk reducing techniques like eating well, not smoking, drinking less alcohol and keeping active can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia. With one person developing dementia every three minutes in the UK, knowing how to lower our dementia risk couldn’t be more vital. So hit that salad bar, swap a cocktail for a mocktail and get your exercise kit on!”
Retrieved from iNews on July. 15, 2019. Paul Gallagher. "Healthy lifestyle ‘helps offset genetic risk of dementia’ amid calls for over-50s to exercise"