Lifestyle changes can protect cognition

Lifestyle changes can protect cognition

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Acting on lifestyle risk factors for dementia could dramatically reduce the risk. Image source: Oliver Nasteski/Stocksy.
  • The number of people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 153 million by 2050.
  • Although a definitive way to prevent the disease is not yet known, researchers know that health and lifestyle modifications can help reduce a person’s risk.
  • Researchers at the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) have found that personalized health and lifestyle changes may be able to delay or even prevent memory loss in people at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

With researchers estimating the number of people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s until it arrives 153 million by 2050scientists have recently been working to develop new preventions and treatments for this type of dementia.

As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, there is currently no definitive way to prevent the disease.

However, previous research shows some healthy lifestyle modifications can help reduce a person’s risk for the condition, including a healthy dietregular physical exerciseget enough sleep, stay socially connectedand managing health issues such as high blood pressure and Diabetes which can increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Adding to this knowledge is a new study by researchers at the University of California—San Francisco (UCSF) that personalized health and lifestyle changes may be able to delay or even prevent memory loss in people at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Dr. Kristine Yaffe, vice chair and professor in the UCSF Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and first author and principal investigator of this study said Medical news today decided to study the effect of a personalized health and lifestyle approach because while clinicians are aware of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, it is unclear whether reducing these risk factors leads to improved cognitive function.

“It’s hard to get people to change health and behavior,” Dr. Yaffe continued. “Our hypothesis was that an individualized approach, in which people’s individual risk factors are assessed — not one size fits all — and the person can choose the goals and ways to improve the risk factor — e.g. sleep, physical activity, social engagement — that would be able to reduce risk and that would translate into better knowledge.”

“No one has tried this approach before, and we found that we could improve risk factors and cognitive function, even though this happened during COVID,” he added. “Furthermore, there are only a few trials that have ever shown cognitive benefits with interventions on these health and lifestyle factors.”

While generalized health and lifestyle changes can certainly be effective, those who are less motivated to make these adjustments may benefit from an individualized program.

A personalized health and lifestyle modification plan allows a person to take charge of their health by identifying which areas they want to target for change.

And as each person is different, a personalized approach allows medical advisors to tailor their recommendations to one person rather than to all people.

A study published in June 2021 found that people receive personalized nutrition advice improved their nutritional intake more than those receiving general dietary advice.

Another study published in June 2021 reported that those who followed a personalized nutrition plan experienced improved lifestyle habits and reductions in body weight and BMI.

And research published in October 2019 found that personalized lifestyle advice given to older people helped improve resilience and motivation, and helped reduce body fat percentage and hip circumference, compared to those receiving general advice. lifestyle advice.

For the study, Dr. Yaffe and her team recruited 172 study participants between the ages of 70 and 89. All participants had at least two of the eight dementia risk factors at the start of the 2-year study.

These risk factors included:

  • physical inactivity
  • uncontrolled hypertension
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • bad sleep
  • use of prescription drugs associated with risk of cognitive decline;
  • symptoms of high depression
  • Social isolation
  • being a current smoker.

Half of the participants received personalized guidance from a nurse and health coach and were allowed to choose specific risk factors they wanted help with.

These participants received coaching sessions every few months to review their goals. Meetings changed from in-person to telephone during the pandemic.

The other half of the study participants were mailed to them general education materials about reducing the risk of dementia every 3 months.

After 2 years, researchers found that participants who received personalized coaching showed a modest boost on cognitive tests, amounting to a 74% improvement over the non-personalized group.

In addition, the personalized coaching group also had a 145% improvement in risk factors and an 8% improvement in quality of life compared to the non-personalized group.

“We are excited to see such a large difference in the groups,” said Dr. Yaffe. “This provides clear evidence that if one can reduce these modifiable risk factors with this personalized approach, they can improve cognitive function and prevent decline, which will likely prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

MNT He also spoke with Dr. Shannel Kassis Elhelou, a fellow in gerontology and neuropsychology in the brain wellness and lifestyle programs at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA, about this study.

Dr. Elhelou, who was not involved in the research, said she found these findings promising and encouraging, as they suggest that personalized health and lifestyle interventions can have a positive impact on cognitive function in older adults at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s, which could potentially open new avenues for non-pharmacological approaches.

These findings could influence how providers discuss health and lifestyle interventions with their patients at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease by choosing an individualized versus a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, providers may be more willing to refer their patients to health coaches [who] can respond to specific needs and preferences, as well as help with motivation to adhere to lifestyle changes.”

– Dr. Shannel Kassis Elhelou

Dr Elhelou said she would like to see future research on this topic continue to explore the effectiveness of additional non-pharmacological approaches such as cognitive training and stress management.

“In addition, it would be valuable to conduct larger, longer-term studies to further validate the effectiveness of individualized interventions and non-pharmacological approaches in delaying or preventing cognitive decline in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” he added.

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