According to new research, running a healthy lifestyle can help balance the genetic risk of dementia.
The study was conducted by the University of Exeter – published simultaneously in JAMA and presented at the International Conference of the Alzheimer's Association 2019 in Los Angeles. The study found that the risk of dementia was 32 percent lower in people with high genetic risk if they were following a healthy lifestyle compared to people who had an unhealthy lifestyle.
Participants with high genetic risk and unfavorable lifestyle were almost three times more exposed to dementia than people with low genetic risk and a favorable lifestyle.
The co-author Dr. Elżbieta Kuźma from the University of Exeter Medical School said: "This is the first study analyzing the extent to which the genetic risk of dementia can be balanced by leading a healthy lifestyle. Our findings are exciting because they show that we can take action to compensate for the risk of genetic dementia. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduction in the risk of dementia, regardless of genetic risk. "
The study analyzed data from 196,383 adults of European descent aged 60 and over from the British biobank. Researchers identified 1,769 cases of dementia over eight years of follow-up. The team grouped the participants into groups with high, medium and low genetic dementia risk.
To assess the 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 the lifestyle, the researchers divided the participants into beneficial, intermediate and unfavorable categories based on their own declared diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. Researchers did not consider current smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption as healthy behaviors. The team found that maintaining a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced risk of dementia in all genetic risk groups.
The co-author, Dr. David Llewellyn of the University of Exeter Medical School and the Alan Turing Institute, said: "This study provides a really important message that undermines the fatalistic view of dementia. Some believe that dementias will inevitably grow because of their genetics. It seems, however, that you can significantly reduce the risk of dementia by leading a healthy lifestyle. "
The study was conducted by the University of Exeter in collaboration with scientists from the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford and the University of South Australia.
The work was partially supported by the National Institute of Aging of the National Institute of Health on the basis of P30AG024824, P30AG053760 and RF1AG055654. Only the authors are responsible for the content and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institutes of Health. A full list of funders can be found in the document.
An article entitled Association of lifestyle and genetic risk with dementia and published in JAMA. The authors are Lourid, I, Hannon, E., Littlejohns, T. J., Lang, K. M., Hyppönen, E., Kuźma, E., Llewellyn, D. J.
A film with Dr. David Llewellyn on this research is available here.
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