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[REMEMBER THIS] 6 healthy habits tied to slower memory decline

Following six healthy lifestyle behaviors is linked to slower memory decline in older adults, a large, population-based study suggests. The behaviors are:  a healthy diet, cognitive activity, regular physical exercise, not smoking, and abstaining from alcohol. These behaviors are linked to slower memory decline even among those with a known dementia risk - the APOE4 gene variant.

After adjusting for health and socioeconomic factors, each healthy behavior was associated with a slower-than-average decline in memory over 10 years of follow-up, with a healthy diet emerging as the strongest deterrent, followed by cognitive activity and physical exercise.

The study, which included close to 30,000 participants in the China Cognition and Aging Study (mean age, 72; 49%, women) began in 2009 and ended in 2019. Approximately 20% of participants were APOE4 carriers, and were required to have normal cognitive function at baseline.

Memory decline occurred faster in APOE4 versus non-APOE4 carriers. However, APOE4 carriers with favorable and average lifestyle behaviors showed slower memory decline compared to those with unfavorable lifestyles. The same was true of non-APOE4 carriers.

Overall, those with favorable or average lifestyles were almost 90% less likely to develop dementia and 30% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment compared to those with an unfavorable lifestyle.

"The results of this study provide strong evidence that adherence to a healthy lifestyle with a combination of positive behaviors, such as never or formerly smoking, never drinking, a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, and active cognitive activity and social contact, is associated with a slower rate of memory decline. Importantly, our study provides evidence that these effects also include individuals with the APOE ε4 allele. This study might offer important information to protect older adults against memory decline," the authors conclude.

To read the full study, published in the BMJ, click here

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