Lifestyle changes may prevent Alzheimer's disease for those already experiencing cognitive decline

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Two older ladies enjoying outdoor bowling

Results from a new study suggest a lifestyle modification intervention may help to improve cognition in older adults experiencing cognitive decline, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. 

In the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 119 individuals older than 65 years of age who were experiencing cognitive decline received an eight-week education program covering topics such as lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, Mediterranean diet, physical activity and cognitive engagement. Participants randomised to the control group were instructed to modify their lifestyle independently. However, those who were randomised to the intervention group also took part in activities designed to help them implement the recommended lifestyle changes. These included online brain training, and sessions with a dietitian and exercise physiologist.

The study found that after six months of follow up, the lifestyle modification intervention was able to lower participants’ exposure to lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and improve cognition when compared to the control group. The results suggest that lifestyle-based changes involving diet, exercise and brain training may modify the course of cognitive decline and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The study was undertaken by researchers from the Australian National University and was led by PhD candidate, Mr Mitchell McMaster.

“We’ve known for some time that lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk in the general population. What this study adds is that with the right intervention, people experiencing cognitive decline may retain sufficient neuroplasticity for their brain to “bounce back” from decline,” said Mr McMaster. 

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Mr McMaster’s PhD scholarship was supported by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration and the Australian National University.