The Daily Telegraph

Seven things you can do now to stave off the risk of dementia

- By Sarah Knapton Science editor

TAKING up seven simple lifestyle habits in middle age can radically reduce the risk of dementia later, according to a major long-term study.

While some dementia risk is genetic, a significan­t amount is determined by factors within our control, say American researcher­s.

They found that being active, having a good diet, healthy weight, not smoking, normal blood pressure and cholestero­l levels, and low blood sugar all help cut the chances of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s. And the benefits grow with each extra healthy lifestyle trait achieved.

The research followed 13,720 middle-aged women for 20 years and found that the more healthy lifestyle factors they had, the less likely they were to develop dementia.

Each of the seven factors, taken alone, could lower risk by around 6 per cent, suggesting that adopting them all could reduce the chances of dementia by 42 per cent.

“Since we now know that dementia can begin in the brain decades before diagnosis, it’s important that we learn more about how your habits in middle age can affect your risk,” said Dr Pamela Rist, an assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

There are 900,000 people with dementia in Britain. Symptoms include memory loss, confusion, problems with language and it can eventually lead to death.

However, several population-wide studies suggest the actual incidence is falling, which experts believe is driven by lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, and better heart health owing to the use of statins.

During the study, 1,771 women developed dementia, which is around 13 per cent or one in seven. Participan­ts were given one point for each regular healthy lifestyle factor. After adjusting for factors such as age and education, researcher­s found that for every increase of one point, a person’s risk of dementia fell by 6 per cent.

The preliminar­y study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital was released yesterday and will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th annual meeting.

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