Alzheimer's is still an incurable disease, but a new study finds that certain lifestyle choices appear to protect against mental decline and stave off the disease—even in people with an increased genetic risk of dementia. Researchers found that people engaging in four out of the following five key behaviors over a six-year period had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to people who engaged in just one or none of the behaviors, NBC News reports:
- Do not smoke.
- Exercise at a moderate to vigorous level for at least 150 minutes per week.
- Eat a brain-healthy diet.
- Engage in only light-to-moderate alcohol consumption.
- Get cognitive stimulation.
Specifically, the 2,700 subjects were given a score based on how closely their diets resemble the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND, diet: leafy greens and other vegetables, beans, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, berries, seafood, and poultry are emphasized, while red meat, butter, cheese, pastries, sugar, and fried foods are avoided. Those whose diets were in the upper 40% received credit for the "brain-supporting diet" criterion. As for the exercise portion, the Washington Post reports even something like yard work counts toward that goal. And examples of mentally stimulating activities, for which participants got credit if they engaged in two or three times a week, include reading the newspaper, going to the library, or playing games like chess and checkers. Researchers say they were expecting to see the healthy choices making a difference, but they were astonished to see the "magnitude of the effect," per a co-author. (Read more Alzheimer's Disease stories.)