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Healthy lifestyle could reduce genetic risk of dementia

Monday July 15th, 2019

Living a healthy lifestyle could reduce a person’s genetic risk of dementia by almost one third, the first study of its kind has revealed.

A study, led by the University of Exeter, England, found the risk of dementia was 32% lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle - compared with those who had an unhealthy lifestyle.

The research, which is published JAMA and was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles, USA, also found that people with high genetic risk and an unfavourable lifestyle were almost three times more likely to develop dementia compared to those with a low genetic risk and favourable lifestyle.

Joint lead author Dr Elzbieta Kuzma, from the university’s Medical School, said: "This is the first study to analyse the extent to which you may offset your genetic risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle.

“Our findings are exciting as they show that we can take action to try to offset our genetic risk for dementia. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced risk of dementia, regardless of the genetic risk.”

The study analysed data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older from the UK Biobank.

The research team identified 1,769 cases of dementia over a follow-up period of eight years, grouping the participants into those with high, intermediate and low genetic risk for dementia.

Participants were also grouped into favourable, intermediate and unfavourable categories based on their self-reported diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption, finding that a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced dementia risk across all genetic risk groups.

Joint lead author Dr David Llewellyn, from the University of Exeter Medical School and the Alan Turing Institute, said: "This research delivers a really important message that undermines a fatalistic view of dementia.

“Some people believe it's inevitable they'll develop dementia because of their genetics. However, it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.”

The study was led by the University of Exeter in collaboration with researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and the University of South Australia.

Lourida I, Hannon E, Littlejohns TJ et al. Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia. JAMA 14 July 2019 doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9879

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2738355

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Diet & Food | Elderly Health | Fitness | UK News

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