A study that followed Chinese people over 60 for ten years found that a healthy lifestyle and, in particular, a diet full of nutrients can slow memory loss.
The BMJ just published some important new research that showed the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle were seen even in people who had a gene that made them genetically more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
Carriers of the APOE gene, which is the strongest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, saw their memory loss slow down when they did healthy things, like stopped drinking alcohol. Even though APOE is not the only thing that puts people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, this is what happened.
Memory loss is a normal part of getting older, according to the Chinese research team. However, there wasn’t enough evidence from previous studies to say whether or not living a healthy life affected a person’s memory as they got older.
They also said that to get the best results, it might be best to do more than one healthy thing, since memory loss can be caused by many different things.
The best thing to do is to do all six of these healthy habits at the same time.
The researchers looked at data from 29,000 people over the age of 60 whose mental abilities were normal. The average age of the people in the group was 72, and more than half of them were women.
At the beginning of the study in 2009, the APOE gene was tested for and the Auditory Verbal Learning test (AVLT) was used to test memory function. The results showed that 20% of the people who took part carried the gene. After that, there were follow-up evaluations in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2019.
After that, a healthy lifestyle score was made by adding up six different things: food, regular exercise, active social contact, cognitive activity (like reading and writing), not smoking, and never drinking alcohol.
Depending on the score they got, which ranged from zero to six, the participants’ lifestyles were either good (four to six healthy factors), average (two or three), or bad (one or zero). Based on their score, they were also put into two groups: those who had APOE and those who didn’t.
Over a ten-year period, the researchers found that each healthy habit was linked to a slower than average loss of memory. After looking at other health, economic, and social factors, they came to this conclusion.
Professor Jianping Jia, who led the study, said, “A balanced diet had the biggest effect on reducing memory loss, followed by mental activity and then physical exercise.”
“Based on a standardized AVLT score, memory loss in the group with good lifestyles was 0.28 points slower over 10 years than in the group with bad lifestyles, and memory loss in the group with average lifestyles was 0.16 points slower than in the group with bad lifestyles.”
“Participants with the APOE gene whose lifestyles were healthy or average also lost their memories more slowly than those whose lifestyles were unhealthy,” the researchers wrote.
Also, people with good or average lifestyles were almost 90% less likely to get dementia or mild cognitive impairment than people with bad lifestyles, and the APOE group had the same results.
He said that the study was an observational one, which makes it impossible to find a cause. However, it was a large one with a long follow-up period, so it was possible to see how many different lifestyle factors affected memory function over time.