A decade-long study has shown that a combination of healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating well, exercising regularly, playing cards and socializing at least twice a week, can help slow the rate of memory loss and reduce the risk of dementia.

Memory is a fundamental function of daily life that continues to decline as people age, impairing quality of life and productivity, and increasing the risk of dementia.

Evidence from previous research was insufficient to assess the impact of a healthy lifestyle on memory trajectories, but now a study suggests that combining several healthy lifestyle choices — the more the better — is linked to slowing the pace of memory decline.

“A combination of positive healthy behaviors is associated with a slower rate of memory decline in cognitively normal older adults,” said researchers from the National Center for Neurological Disorders in Beijing, China. wrote in the BMJ.

Practicing more healthy lifestyle choices together “was associated with milder cognitive impairment and a lower likelihood of progression to dementia”, they added.

The researchers analyzed 29,000 adults over the age of 60 with normal cognitive function who were part of the China Cognition and Aging Study.

At the start of the study in 2009, memory function was measured using tests and people were screened for the APOE gene, which is the strongest risk-factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease. Subjects were then followed for 10 years with periodic assessments.

A healthy lifestyle score was calculated combining six factors: a healthy diet; regular exercise; active social contact; cognitive activity; Non-smokers; And don’t drink alcohol.

Based on their scores, from zero to six, participants were placed into lifestyle groups—favorable (four to six healthy factors), average (two to three healthy factors), or unfavorable (0 to 1 healthy factors)—and on APOE. Carrier and non-carrier groups.

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A healthy diet was considered eating at least seven of the 12 food groups: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts and tea.

Writing, reading, playing cards or other games at least twice a week was the second area of ​​healthy behavior.

Other areas include not drinking alcohol, exercising more than 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity or more than 75 at vigorous intensity, and never smoking or ex-smoking.

Social contact at least twice a week was the sixth healthy behavior, which included activities such as visiting family and friends, attending meetings or going to parties.

After accounting for factors that may have affected the results, the researchers found that each individual’s healthy behavior was associated with a slower-than-average decline in memory over 10 years.

A healthy diet has the strongest effect on memory loss, followed by cognitive activity and then physical exercise.

People with the APOE gene who had an overall healthier life also experienced lower rates of memory decline than people with APOE who were less healthy.

Overall, people with four to six healthy behaviors or two to three were about 90% and about 30% less likely to develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment than less healthy people, respectively, the BMJ reported.

Dr Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This is a well-done study, which followed people over a long period of time, and adds to strong evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help support memory and thinking. Skills as we age.

“Few of us know that there are steps we can all take to reduce our chances of dementia later in life.”

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