Dementia: Seven tips to adhere to in midlife to reduce risk of the condition – BMJ study
Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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The American Heart Association lists seven risk factors for cardiovascular disease that people can improve through lifestyle changes.
A new study published in the British Medical Journal linked these same risk factors for heart disease to an increased chance of developing dementia and cognitive disease.
The researchers looked at how controlling these lifestyle factors at age 50 affects your chance of developing dementia before the age of 75.
The research could unveil new preventative ways of treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The ‘Life’s simple 7’ advocated for by the American Heart Foundation is divided into four behaviours, and three biomarkers.
The behaviours are not smoking, exercise, diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
The biomarkers are healthy glucose levels, blood cholesterol and blood pressure.
These seven factors can interact with each other, such as exercise improving cholesterol levels.
The researchers categorised the health data of participants to give them a score on each of these seven factors.
This was then compared to hospital admissions, mental health services and death records over the next 25 years to see if they were diagnosed or exhibited signs of dementia.
Better scores were linked to healthier and larger brain tissue at the 20 year mark.
This means that improvements to cardiovascular health can produce positive benefits in cognition as well as physical health.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be caused by a mass build-up of a protein called amyloid-beta in the brain.
Research has not confirmed fully whether this is a correlative factor or causative factor.
Several drug therapies trying to target amyloid-beta have been unable to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers argue that their findings support a preventative approach to Alzheimer’s disease, rather than treating it after it appears.
Heart disease is primarily treated by encouraging healthy lifestyles that reduce your risk.
This includes prescribing exercise, healthy diets and medications that control cholesterol.
Since improving these factors also reduces the risk of developing dementia, a similar preventative approach can be taken for people at risk.
This means providing help with quitting cigarettes and encouraging them to take up healthier lifestyles.
The study looked specifically at the data available on 7899 Whitehall civil servants in London, who were first examined 25 years ago.
Further research will be needed to verify whether the health outcomes of civil servants are applicable to the wider human race.
The Whitehall II study is currently halted due to the risk of Coronavirus transmission at the clinics where measurements are conducted.
The data produced has been used to examine a variety of physical, mental and sociological issues.
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