A healthier lifestyle minimizes the risk of dementia - even if there is a genetic predisposition

A healthier lifestyle minimizes the risk of dementia - even if there is a genetic predisposition

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How to reduce your risk of dementia

Many older people develop dementia throughout their lives. Researchers have now found that a healthy lifestyle significantly reduces the risk of dementia, even if people have a genetic predisposition to such diseases.

A recent study by the University of Exeter Medical School and the University of Oxford found that our lifestyle has a major impact on the risk of dementia, even if people have a genetic predisposition to dementia. The results of the study were published in the journal Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

What are the factors in a healthy lifestyle?

A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise and a balanced diet. In addition, people should limit their alcohol consumption and not smoking. All of these factors can reduce the risk of dementia, even if there is a genetic predisposition. Many other studies have already shown that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing such diseases. However, it remained unclear whether such measures could have the same effect on people whose genes predispose them to dementia. The researchers said that the risk of lifestyle-related dementia decreased in a similar manner regardless of the genetic risk.

Data from almost 200,000 people were evaluated

The study also underlined that high genetic risk or a family history of dementia does not make it inevitable that the disease will occur. For the study, the data of almost 200,000 people of European descent from the age of 60 were analyzed. The team divided the participants into five equal groups based on the combination of almost 250,000 genetic variants associated with Alzheimer's and European descent. This resulted in three categories with low, medium and high genetic risk for dementia. The former and the latter category each comprised 20 percent of the participants. In addition, the lifestyle of the participants and the four key factors associated with a reduced risk of dementia were also included in the study.

The four factors that can significantly reduce the risk of dementia are:

  • sufficient exercise,
  • No smoking or no tobacco,
  • Healthy eating with little processed meat and instead fish and lots of fruits and vegetables,
  • Abstaining from alcohol; a maximum of one alcoholic drink per day for women and a maximum of two alcoholic drinks for men.

What did the study reveal?

First, an assessment of the overall health of lifestyle was made based on these factors. During a medical follow-up of eight years, 1,769 people (less than one percent of the participants) developed some form of dementia. The results show that dementia prevalence was higher in the group with the highest genetic risk (1.2 percent) than in the group with the lowest risk (0.6 percent). A lower proportion of participants with a healthy lifestyle (0.8 percent) developed dementia than those who lived unhealthily. (1.2 percent). It is crucial that these trends occurred independently of one another. Taking into account factors such as age, gender and socio-economic status, the researchers found that a healthy lifestyle compared to an unhealthy lifestyle - regardless of a high or low genetic disposition - was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of dementia.

More research is needed

Although the effects appear to be minor, the authors said that participants were in their early years and that the group would continue to be medically monitored to examine the relationship between lifestyle factors and the risk of dementia if more cases of dementia occur in old age.

Were there any restrictions in the study?

The study has some limitations, including the fact that lifestyle data was collected and reported at a specific time. In addition, the study only looked at cases of European descent and some cases of dementia may not have been covered. (as)

More interesting articles on this topic can be found here:

  • Gradual hearing loss is often a warning sign of dementia
  • Many dementia cases go undetected in hospitals
  • Dementia: The risk of alcohol consumption increases so much

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Ilianna Lourida, Eilis Hannon, Thomas J. Littlejohns, Kenneth M. Langa, Elina Hyppönen et al .: Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia, in Journal of the American Medical Association (query: July 15, 2019), JAMA

Video: Diet, Lifestyle And Alzheimers Disease, By Author: Pamela A, Popper,.,. (May 2022).