Exercise and diet help lessen Alzheimer’s risk and may cut threat of dementia

Lifestyle is responsible for up to 76% of changes in the ageing of the brain, according to Age UK, with key lifestyle changes having the potential to reduce the risk of developing dementia by as much as 36%.

Five actions that people can take to maintain brain health include,

regular physical exercise

a Mediterranean diet

not smoking

drinking in moderation and

preventing diabetes.

About 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, which will affect one in three people over the age of 65, according to the latest estimates.

Physical exercise, such as aerobic, resistance or balance activity, was found to be the most effective way to ward off cognitive decline in healthy older people and to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies suggested exercising three to five times a week for between 30 minutes and an hour was beneficial, it said.

There are significantly more new cases of Alzheimer’s among current smokers, compared with cases of people who have never smoked, the research indicated.

The review also backed claims suggesting very heavy drinking is linked to dementia, leading to loss of brain tissue, particularly in parts of the brain responsible for memory and processing, and interpreting visual information. Moderate levels of alcohol use, however, were found to protect brain tissue by increasing “good” cholesterol and lowering “bad” cholesterol.

One large UK study, done over 30 years, found men aged between 45 and 59 who followed four to five of the identified lifestyle factors, were found to have a 36% lower risk of developing cognitive decline and a 36% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.

Dementia is a set of behaviours or “symptoms” which suggest difficulties with cognitive function. The most common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, mood and personality changes, problems with planning, and doing tasks in the right order.

Dementia is diagnosed when the symptoms cause such problems with everyday tasks that the person affected cannot carry on living independently without care.

There are more than 100 types and many causes of dementia. Late-onset Alzheimer’s, the disease diagnosed at the age of 65 or later, is the most common form, accounting for approximately two-thirds of dementia cases in the UK. Vascular dementia is the next most common.

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