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Daily brief research updates from the cognitive sciences

ageing aging brain health

We would all like to age well remaining cognitively active into older and old age. I have reported multiple times on activities that are correlated with better, or worse cognition, and risk of neurodegeneration in older age but this group of researchers analysed those with Type 2 diabetes and also those without.

What conclusions did they come to?

Well, the researchers around Bin Wang for the American Academy of Neurology analysed data from 167,946 people 60 or older from a UK-based database with, and without diabetes, and who did not have dementia at the start of the study. They were followed for 12 years and 4’351 developed dementia

Based on the data and results of questionnaires and blood tests they managed to identify seven (healthy) habits that seem to dramatically reduce chances of developing dementia and can put figures to the increased or reduced risk.

The seven healthy habits are:

    1. No smoking
    2. Moderate alcohol consumption (up to one drink a day for women and up to two a day for men)
    3. Regular weekly physical activity (at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise)
    4. Seven to nine hours sleep daily
    5. Healthy diet including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish and with fewer refined grains, processed and unprocessed meats
    6. Being less sedentary (defined as watching television less than four hours a day)
    7. Frequent social contact (defined as living with others, gathering with friends or family at least once a month and participating in social activities at least once a week or more often)

A total of 4% of those in the study followed two or fewer of the healthy habits, whereas 11% followed three, 22% followed four, 30% followed five, 24% followed six, and 9% followed all seven.

And the results showed that those who followed all seven habits were four times less likely to develop dementia than those who followed two or less! That’s a big difference! Also they note that each habit added progressivley reduces chances of developing dementia – so if you follow five you will be much better off than if you follow only two.

However, the researchers also noted that those with diabetes were still 74% more likely to develop dementia than those without (when compared to those who do the same amounts of healthy habits).

This shows us once again that basic lifestyle factors have dramatic impacts on neurodegenerative conditions. The study didn’t measure this but other research has shown that the earlier we start the better it is – but we also know it’s never too late to start.

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

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Bin Wang, Ying Sun, Xiao Tan, Jihui Zhang, Ningjian Wang, Yingli Lu. 
Association of Combined Healthy Lifestyle Factors With Incident Dementia in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
Neurology, 2022
DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201231

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