Dementia: Cognitive impairments avoidable with lifestyle changes?

Dementia: Cognitive impairments avoidable with lifestyle changes?

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How can we protect ourselves from cognitive decline?

Personalized lifestyle interventions can slow cognitive decline in people at risk for Alzheimer's and improve their memory and thinking skills in just 18 months.

The current study by the Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center found that lifestyle changes can improve the memory and thinking skills of people at increased risk of Alzheimer's and also protect against cognitive decline. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Alzheimer's and Dementia".

Sleep, diet, exercise and meditation

Many people hope for groundbreaking research on drugs for dementia and Alzheimer's, but there are already many ways to maintain brain health with a healthy lifestyle. The researchers emphasize that sleep, nutrition, exercise and meditation can play an important role in the health of our brains. However, it is often difficult to convince the public until clinical studies provide evidence. They hope that the results of the current study will lead to a rethink here.

Protection from dementia through our lifestyle?

The results of the study show that individualized clinical management can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases. There is growing evidence that certain lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and brain training can slow mental decline and may even protect against the development of severe dementia.

The study included 174 participants

The study examined 174 patients aged between 25 and 86 years. All participants had a history of Alzheimer's in their families. Most of the patients were not yet memory impaired, but showed worrying poor performance in cognitive tests. A small group of participants (35 people) was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. These impairments included cognitive changes, which were already serious for the person concerned as well as for family members and friends, but did not impair the ability of the individual to carry out everyday activities.

Physical activity and nutrition are the most important factors

Each person received a personalized treatment plan based on the results found. Out of almost 50 evidence-based interventions, an average of 21 lifestyle behaviors were suggested to each person, which they could implement. Physical activity and nutrition were by far the two most important items on the list, but these items were also personalized for each individual participant. For example, during physical activity, the program may recommend aerobic interval training for one person, while a balance ball or weight training is more suitable for another person.

Changes in behavior led to success

It was found that people with diagnosed mild cognitive impairment who adhered to 60 percent or an average of more than 12 out of 21 recommended behavioral changes had improved memory and thinking skills 18 months later. If the participants adhered to less than 60 percent of the personalized behavior changes, no improvements could be identified. In fact, these people's cognitive abilities continued to decline. The second group of people at genetic risk, but with no current clinical signs of dementia, received an equally impressive cognitive boost. It didn't seem to matter to these people whether they followed less than 60 percent of the recommendations.

More research is needed

The study was not designed to prevent Alzheimer's, it was only intended to determine whether lifestyle changes affect cognitive function. More research is now needed. (as)

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.


  • Richard S. Isaacson, Hollie Hristov, Nabeel Saif, Katherine Hackett, Suzanne Hendrix et al .: Individualized clinical management of patients at risk for Alzheimer's dementia, in Alzheimer's and Dementia (query: 01.11.2019), Alzheimer's and Dementia

Video: Intervention Strategies for Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (January 2023).