It’s well known that there are many benefits to being physically active, eating a well-balanced diet and limiting tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Among many other health benefits, practicing these healthy lifestyle choices can help combat health conditions and diseases, improve mood, boost energy, promote better sleep and maintain strong bones and teeth.
A new study, “Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia,” published July 14 in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that there is another benefit associated with these healthier lifestyle choices: a lower risk of dementia, regardless of whether or not it runs in your family.
According to the research, the risk of dementia was 32 percent lower in study participants with a high genetic risk of dementia if they had followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. The study identifies healthy lifestyle choices as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, no current smoking and moderate alcohol consumption.
In addition to the healthy lifestyle choices identified in the study, Dr. John Scott, PH.D., M.D., says there is also evidence that continued socialization and mental stimulation is associated with helping prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, Scott cautioned that simply eating healthy food, being physically active, and avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get dementia.
“It’s interesting, and they may be related, and it makes sense for people to do those healthy lifestyle things,” he said. “But … we can’t say for certain that one thing leads to the other.”
Scott, who is a family physician at Corner Medical in Lyndon, said in his own experience, he doesn’t usually see dementia in patients that have practiced these healthy lifestyle choices. Scott said he sees a “small number” of patients with dementia, but that “in general, I think I see dementia less in people who are fit … and who stayed mentally active, than otherwise.”
If you need to make changes to your health habits, try taking it one step at a time. In our Vital Signs article published in January, we talked about how adopting new habits can be challenging but can be achieved by setting a manageable goal, breaking the goal down into reasonable steps and acknowledging small victories along the way.
If you want to try to form new habits to lead a healthier lifestyle, here are some great ways to start:
• Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid processed foods.
• Include 30 minutes of physical activity, which can be walking or working in your garden, into your day, five days a week.
• Attend local events, join a club or volunteer in the community to meet new people and make new friends.
• Take the first step to quit smoking or tobacco, or drinking less alcohol, by reaching out to participate in a class or group.
Making healthier lifestyle choices offers many health benefits and now is associated with a lower risk of dementia, regardless of genetic risk. For more information and resources on nutrition, exercise, using less tobacco and consuming less alcohol, call your primary care office today.
We want to hear from you! Are there health topics or issues that you’d like to read about in an upcoming Vital Signs? Email us your suggestions at email@example.com, or mail them to NVRH, c/o Katie Bocchino, P.O. Box 905, St. Johnsbury, VT, 05819.
This is the latest installment of Vital Signs, a periodic column by Katie Bocchino, Director of Healthcare Integration at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital. Bocchino will provide community health commentary on a range of subjects including health policy, healthy living and current events through the lens of Vermont. After beginning her career in journalism working for two Maryland newspapers, Bocchino transitioned to working in healthcare about six years ago. She holds a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration from Champlain College.