A study has shown that you can reduce your risk of getting dementia by adapting a healthy lifestyle, regardless of your genetic pre-disposition. Genetic factors can increase a person’s likelihood of getting dementia, but until now it was not known if making lifestyle changes could reduce this risk.

196,383 individuals above 60 years of age took part in the eight-year study. Participants first had their genetic risk for dementia evaluated and classified as high, moderate or low. The classification was based on the type of genetic variant each person had for genes which were known to influence the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Next, participants answered a questionnaire to determine how healthy their lifestyle was. Healthy behaviours included not smoking, exercising regularly, a balanced diet and moderate alcohol intake. Participants were classified into favourable lifestyles, moderate lifestyles and unfavourable lifestyles. No link was found between genetic risk factors and lifestyle factors.

Over the next eight years, the study identified the participants who had been diagnosed with dementia. It was found that 1.23% of participants with high genetic risk contracted dementia in this period, compared with 0.63% of participants with low genetic risk.

1.78% of people with high genetic risk and unfavourable lifestyle contracted dementia. However, the dementia incidence was lower for those with high genetic risk and favourable lifestyles as only 1.13% participants in this category contracted dementia.

Many people believe that there is nothing they can do to reduce their dementia risk if their genetic disposition is high, but this study shows that by adapting a healthy lifestyle the risk can be reduced.

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