Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia
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Life is precious so finding ways to prolong it is a universal goal. However, there is a significant downside to longevity: it is thought to increase your risk of dementia. However, a new study suggests this trade-off is not inevitable.
New research, published in the BMJ, suggests that having a healthy lifestyle increases life expectancy while reducing the number of years someone may live with Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
In the US-based study, scientists used information from 2,449 volunteers aged 65 years and older.
These study volunteers reported what they ate, how often they did activities such as reading or doing a crossword, and how much physical activity they took part in.
They also told researchers whether they smoked and how much they drank.
What did the researchers find out?
People with a healthy lifestyle were more likely to live longer than those with an unhealthy lifestyle.
On average the number of years lived with Alzheimer’s was less than those with poorer healthy lifestyles.
Commenting on the findings, Doctor Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a progressive condition with devastating consequences for millions of people around the world. The chance of developing a disease like Alzheimer’s is affected by a complex mix of age, genetics, and other lifestyle factors.
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“While research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle can help stave off dementia, it can also lead to people living longer, which in itself is a risk factor for the condition.
“In this study, researchers looked at untangling the association between healthy living, increasing life expectancy and Alzheimer’s.
“While this study cannot fully tease apart cause and effect, it hints that living longer due to a healthy lifestyle does not mean more years living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“There are steps we can all take to keep our brains healthy, stacking the odds in our favour and reducing the risk of developing dementia later in life. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Think Brain Health campaign has three simple rules you can follow. Visit www.thinkbrainhealth.org.uk to find out more.”
Other ways to reduce your risk
Although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society (AS), doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia.
It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing – all mitigating factors for dementia, explains the AS.
There are two main types of physical activity – aerobic activity and strength-building activity.
“Doing a combination of these activities will help you to reduce your risk of dementia,” says the AS.
Moderate intensity aerobic activity is anything that makes you breathe faster and feel warmer.
Vigorous activity is anything that makes you sweat or get out of breath after a while, making it difficult to talk without pausing for breath.
In general, one minute of vigorous activity is equal to two minutes of moderate intensity activity.
The official UK recommendation is to try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
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