Diet, exercise and health management have been shown to stave off cognitive decline in patients at risk for dementia according to a new study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER Study,) led by Miia Kivipelto of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki was one of the first studies to assign high-risk participants a ‘lifestyle intervention’ to assess if improved brain health could actually prevent mental decline.
All of the 1,260 participants, aged between 60-77, involved in the study had some risk factor for developing dementia, including their age, education, and poor heart-health. Half of the study participants were randomly assigned lifestyle changes including nutrition advice, an exercise trainer, social support and a nurse or physician to monitor their medications. The other half received less intensive changes and did not have the additional social support.
In just two years, the participants who were assigned lifestyle and health care changes showed marked improvement in mental functions and cognitive skills.“We thought that two years may not be enough, but the multi-domain approach seems to be an effective way of doing something to protect memory,” said Kivipelto. “These findings show that prevention is possible, and that it may be good to start early,” she added.
It is estimated that more than 35 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s with this number expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050 to 115 million, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2013 by Alzheimer’s Disease International.
In the United States, approximately 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and 1 in 3 seniors in the country dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This includes around 200,000 individuals younger than 65 who have onset Alzheimer’s.