A 35-year study reveals that people who followed four or five out of five healthy habits had 60% lower levels of dementia and cognitive decline with ageing.
The five behaviours are:
- Taking regular exercise.
- Maintaining a low body weight.
- Having a healthy diet.
- Low alcohol intake.
The most important of these factors, the researchers found, was taking regular exercise.
Exercise provided the largest protective effect against cognitive decline and dementia.
The study’s lead author, Professor Peter Elwood, said:
“The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population.
What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health — healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”
Good for heart and head
Even managing just one of these lifestyle changes would be enough to cut the risk of developing dementia by one-quarter.
The conclusions come from a study of 2,235 men from the UK who have been followed over a 35-year period (Elwood et al., 2013).
One of the main aims of the study was to look at the connections between lifestyle, cognitive decline and disease over 35 years.
Along with the benefits to the brain of these five lifestyle changes, there were considerable physical health benefits.
Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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