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Lifestyle Changes Trump Genetic Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease

A new European research study suggests that enhanced lifestyle counseling prevents cognitive decline even in people who have a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The investigation, a component of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), extended over two years and included 60-77 year-old people living in Finland and with risk factors for memory disorders.

The study participants were divided into two groups: one of the groups was given regular lifestyle counseling and the other enhanced lifestyle counseling.

Enhanced counseling involved nutrition counseling, physical and cognitive exercises, and support in managing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Earlier findings from the FINGER trial have shown that the regular lifestyle counseling group had a significantly increased risk of cognitive and functional impairment compared to the intervention group, i.e. the group receiving enhanced counseling.

In this new phase of the study, researchers analyzed whether the presence of the APOE4 gene (a risk factor for Alzheimer’s) affected the intervention results.

The analysis included 1,109 persons of whom 362 were carriers of the APOE4 gene. The findings show that enhanced lifestyle counseling prevented cognitive decline despite the presence of the risk gene.

Statistical analyses carried out within the groups suggest the intervention results might even be better in carriers of the APOE4 gene.

“Many people worry that genetic risk factors for dementia may thwart potential benefits from healthy lifestyle changes. We were very happy to see that this was not the case in our intervention, which was started early, before the onset of substantial cognitive impairment,” says Alina Solomon, an adjunct professor at the University of East Finland and the lead author of the study.

Professor Miia Kivipelto, the principal investigator of the FINGER trial, adds: “The FINGER intervention model is now being adapted and tested globally in the World Wide FINGERS initiative. New clinical trials in diverse populations with a variety of geographical and cultural backgrounds will help us formulate global dementia prevention strategies.”

Source: University of East Finland/EurekAlert

Lifestyle Changes Trump Genetic Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease

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. (2018). Lifestyle Changes Trump Genetic Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 26 Jan 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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