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Healthy Lifestyle May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

Healthy Lifestyle May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

New research suggests a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and a normal body mass index can reduce the incidence of protein build-ups that are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a small study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed 44 adults ranging in age from 40 to 85 (mean age: 62.6) with mild memory changes but no dementia. Each adult underwent an experimental type of PET scan to measure the level of plaque and tangles in the brain.

Researchers also collected information on participants’ body mass index, levels of physical activity, diet, and other lifestyle factors.

Earlier studies have linked a healthy lifestyle to delays in the onset of Alzheimer’s. However, the new study is the first to demonstrate how lifestyle factors directly influence abnormal proteins in people with subtle memory loss who have not yet been diagnosed with dementia.

Plaque, deposits of a toxic protein called beta-amyloid in the spaces between nerve cells in the brain; and tangles, knotted threads of the tau protein found within brain cells, are considered the key indicators of Alzheimer’s.

Healthy lifestyle factors also have been shown to be related to reduced shrinking of the brain and lower rates of atrophy in people with Alzheimer’s.

The study found that each one of several lifestyle factors — a healthy body mass index, physical activity, and a Mediterranean diet — were linked to lower levels of plaques and tangles on the brain scans.

A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and fish and low in meat and dairy, and characterized by a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats, and mild to moderate alcohol consumption.

“The fact that we could detect this influence of lifestyle at a molecular level before the beginning of serious memory problems surprised us,” said Dr. David Merrill, the lead author of the study.

The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Experts explain that older age is the number one non-modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD affects an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States and results in more than $200 billion in health care costs annually. Moreover, the incidence and prevalence of AD is expected to dramatically rise in the future.

“The study reinforces the importance of living a healthy life to prevent Alzheimer’s, even before the development of clinically significant dementia,” Merrill said.

“This work lends key insight not only into the ability of patients to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but also physicians’ ability to detect and image these changes.”

The next step in the research will be to combine imaging with intervention studies of diet, exercise and other modifiable lifestyle factors, such as stress and cognitive health, Merrill said.

Source: University of California, Los Angeles

Healthy Lifestyle May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Healthy Lifestyle May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/08/17/healthy-lifestyle-may-lower-alzheimers-risk/108703.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Aug 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Aug 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.