Home » Alzheimer’s, a healthy lifestyle protects even those who already have signs of dementia from cognitive decline – breaking latest news

Alzheimer’s, a healthy lifestyle protects even those who already have signs of dementia from cognitive decline – breaking latest news

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Alzheimer’s, a healthy lifestyle protects even those who already have signs of dementia from cognitive decline – breaking latest news

by Cristina Marrone

American researchers studied the brains of nearly 600 elderly people who underwent autopsies. Correct nutrition, physical and mental activity slow down cognitive decline even in patients with beta amyloid plaques and tau protein

Training your body and mind keeps Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia at bay, protecting against cognitive decline. Many studies have confirmed this for years now. But can carrying out physical activity and eating healthily, following Mediterranean-style diets, also bring cognitive benefits to those who already show signs of dementia? And what about those who already have an accumulation of beta amyloid plaques or tangles of tau protein in the brain? These are biological signals typical of Alzheimer’s disease, although not all patients with accumulation of these proteins show cognitive deficits.

Healthy lifestyle stimulates cognitive reserve

A new study carried out by US researchers published in J
ama Neurology concludes that it is never too late to start a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the work highlights how the devastating effects on health and mental abilities of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can be at least partially counteracted or slowed down by healthy lifestyle habits, and therefore by modifiable factors.

In practice, the brain damaged by the typical signals of dementia does not necessarily lead to cognitive decline if the patient remains physically active, reads, studies, maintains a certain amount of sociality and eats correctly. The study is observational and it is the same authors of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago who clarify that it was not possible to determine a cause and effect, however the results represent an important step in understanding how people can change their lives to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

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The study with autopsies on the brain

The peculiarity of this research, among the few of this kind, is that the data processed by the researchers, coordinated by Professor Klodian Dhana, geriatrician at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, are based on the real analysis of the brain tissues of almost 600 people with marker of Alzheimer’s dementia. The results of the investigation highlight that following an active and healthy lifestyle can preserve the cognitive abilities of patients for a long time. The findings emerge from brain biopsies of 586 individuals who had lived in a community for the elderly (average age 91 years), whose mental and cognitive health had been followed regularly for 24 years with cognitive and physical tests.

Benefits also in those with beta amyloid plaques in the brain

The functions of reasoning, memory, planning and execution were all found to be better in volunteers with good habits. And this even in people whose biopsies showed clear signs of structural changes linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s, such as the presence of beta amyloid plaques in the brain, cerebral vascular damage, degeneration of the fronto-temporal lobes or markers of body disease Lewis.

“We found that the lifestyle-cognition association was independent of the pathological burden of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that healthy lifestyle may provide cognitive benefits even for people who have begun to accumulate dementia-related signals in their brains,” he said. Dhana. In other words, the study found that the presence of Alzheimer’s or another neurological disorder did not appear to be influential: lifestyle changes resulted in a certain resilience to the brain against some of the most common forms of dementia.


The five categories

To compare signs of dementia, cognitive decline and lifestyle, the researchers divided the participants based on the lifestyle they followed, assigning a different score to five different categories:
1- non-smokers;
2- moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week;
3- alcohol consumption limited to a maximum of one glass of wine for women and two for men;
4- trained mind with reading, visits to museums, study or crosswords;
5- adherence to the Mediterranean DASH or MIND diet, characterized by abundant consumption of vegetables, seeds, legumes, dried fruit, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil and little red meat.

Each category was assigned a point and whoever obtained the maximum score in the five categories was classified as a person who led a healthy lifestyle. The researchers observed that the higher the healthy lifestyle score, the better the cognitive performance recorded with tests on language, attention, memory and visuospatial skills, particularly in the final stage of life. In numerical data it emerged that 88% of cognitive abilities were directly associated with a virtuous lifestyle, while the accumulation of beta amyloid influenced only 12%.


To date there is no cure to stop or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s, but the study just concluded confirms the fundamental need to develop primary or secondary prevention strategies that target modifiable risk factors to delay or prevent the onset of clinical symptoms they write in a accompanying editorial Yue Leng, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco, and Kristine Yaffe, from the Department of Neurology and Epidemiology at the University of California, are in the study. Among the activities suggested by scientists are reading, card games, crosswords, social gatherings and intellectually engaging activities such as going to a museum.

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February 10, 2024 (changed February 10, 2024 | 07:25)

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