Lifestyle and cognitive decline

Adopting at least four healthy lifestyle habits can slow down cognitive decline, a large-scale China study has found.

The China Cognition and Ageing Study, in a paper published in the BMJ, considered six healthy lifestyle factors and discovered that those who did one or none of them showed the fastest decline, while those who did four or more of them had the slowest. The six factors were: healthy diet, regular physical exercise, active social contact, cognitive activity, not smoking, and never drinking.

Researchers looked at data from 29,072 people who were 60 or older when the research began and did not have existing memory and thinking problems.  Participants were also tested for the Alzheimer’s risk gene APOE4.

“While genetics play an important part in the health of our brains as we age, this research found a link between healthy lifestyle and slower cognitive decline even in participants with a key Alzheimer’s risk gene,” said Dr Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK.  “Factors across our lifespan can influence the health of our brains so it’s never too early or too late to think about adopting healthy habits.”