Healthy lifestyle can offset genetic risk of dementia

New research from the University of Exeter has found that living a healthy lifestyle may help offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia.

Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, the research found that the risk of dementia was 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle.

The study analysed data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older from UK Biobank. It found that participants 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.

To assess lifestyle, researchers grouped participants into favourable, intermediate and unfavourable categories based on their self-reported diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. The researchers considered no current smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption as healthy behaviours. The team found that living a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced dementia risk across all genetic risk groups.

Elżbieta Kuźma, lead author from the University of Exeter 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.”

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