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