A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia even if you have genes that raise your risk for these mind-destroying diseases, a large study has found. People with high genetic risk and poor health habits were about three times more likely to develop dementia versus those with low genetic risk and good habits, researchers reported Sunday. Regardless of how much genetic risk someone had, a good diet, adequate exercise, limiting alcohol, and not smoking made dementia less likely, the AP reports. “I consider that good news,” said John Haaga of the US National Institute on Aging, one of the study’s many sponsors. “No one can guarantee you’ll escape this awful disease” but you can tip the odds in your favor with clean living, he said.
About 50 million people have dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. One study a few years ago found that healthy living could help overcome genetic risk for heart disease, and now researchers have shown the same to be true for dementia. Elzbieta Kuzma and colleagues at the University of Exeter Medical School in England used the UK Biobank to study nearly 200,000 people 60 or older with no signs or symptoms of dementia at the start. Their genetic risk was classified as high, medium or low based on dozens of mutations known to affect dementia. They also were grouped by lifestyle factors. After about eight years of study, 1.8% of those with high genetic risk and poor lifestyles had developed dementia versus 0.6% of folks with low genetic risk and healthy habits.
(Read more Alzheimer’s Disease stories.)