No. 1 Way to Lower Dementia Risk: Exercise

Other healthy lifestyle choices also have big impact: study
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2013 7:00 AM CST

(Newser) – A 35-year study of 2,235 men in the UK finds that exercise is the biggest factor when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia, the BBC reports. People who practiced four of the following five lifestyle choices saw their dementia risk reduced 60%, and were 70% less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, or stroke compared to those who practiced none of the following:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a low body weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Not drinking much alcohol

The size of the reduction in risk based on all of the above factors "really amazed us," says the lead researcher, who points out that while exercise had the single biggest impact, "the other factors come in very close behind." He recommends 30 minutes of exercise five times per week, but says simply walking works if you don't want to go to the gym. "Healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure," he tells the Independent. A doctor from the Alzheimer's Society says this study is proof of the idea that "what is good for your heart is also good for your head." Another recent study finds that even for people who already have dementia, regular exercise can help reduce the effects, improving cognitive functioning and helping people care for themselves longer, Reuters reports. (This news follows last week's warning from Alzheimer's Disease International that a "dementia epidemic" is coming.)

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