London: Living healthy with good diet and regular exercise can help people with a higher genetic predisposition to dementia to compensate for the risk of their development, according to recent research.
The risk of dementia is reduced by 32% in people with high genetic risk if they followed a healthy lifestyle compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle, according to the study published in the JAMA medical journal on Sunday.
People with high genetic risk and unhealthy lifestyle are almost three times more likely to develop dementia than those with low genetic risk who also lived healthy.
"Our findings are exciting because they show that we can take action to try to compensate for our genetic risk for dementia," said Elzimita Kuzma, a researcher at Exeter's British University who participated in the study.
Dementia – a brainwashing illness – affects around 50 million people worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases per year – a figure that is expected to trip by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.
Kuzma's team analyzed data from nearly 197,000 adults of European origin aged over 60. They found 1769 cases of dementia for eight years and grouped these cases into people with high, medium and low genetic risk for dementia.
To assess lifestyle, researchers looked at self-reported diets, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption by the participants.
It is believed that non-smokers who have been regularly trained and had a good diet with moderate intake of alcohol have had the healthiest lifestyle – and it has been found that these people have reduced the risk, whether they are high, medium or low genetic risk groups.
David Lievein, also from Exeter University, said the findings contain an important message that undermines what he describes as a "fatalistic look at dementia."
"Some people think it's inevitable that they develop dementia because of their genetics," he said. "But you may be able to significantly reduce the risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle."
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, edited by G Crosse)