Chris Smyth

The Times

Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:

 “Here is more evidence to suggest that modifying lifestyle is the best chance we have in combatting our risk of developing dementia. What I like about this research is that it flags up that it is the combination of multiple factors together, that increases disease risk, in this case dementia, but in my opinion applicable to many other disease processes. Identifying the individual factors and helping patients develop strategies to improve them if possible and if the patient wishes to, seems to be increasingly important.

 The other important finding was that in under 40’s with “unhealthy habits” there was already evidence of harmful changes in the brain assessed by functional MRI. Why wait until we develop symptoms to make changes to lifestyle?”

Seven healthy habits can reduce the risk of dementia by 70 per cent even after retirement, a study has concluded.

Each improvement in lifestyle cut the risk of dementia by an extra 10 per cent and people should amass as many as possible to protect their brain as they age, researchers said.

Previous studies have suggested that staying slim and exercising from middle age can preserve thinking skills in later life. Researchers aimed to test the combined effect of these plus moderate drinking, not smoking, eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish, and keeping control of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Their study of 6,600 people over 65 found that the more of these habits someone followed, the consistently lower their risk of dementia, according to results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We wanted a simple public health message saying that the more factors you optimise the more the risk is decreased,” said Cécilia Samieri of the University of Bordeaux, lead author of the study.

“For each additional optimal factor, you have 10 per cent lower risk of developing dementia.”

Her study did not look at how long people had been following healthy habits and while Dr Samieri said longer was likely to be better she said her results showed “it’s never too late” to adopt them.

A related study in the same journal by Oxford University scientists, which gave MRI scans to 125 under-40s, found that those with unhealthy habits were already showing signs of harmful changes in the brain.