The risk of developing dementia doubles every five years after age 65, until by age 85 almost 50 percent of North Americans suffer some degree of dementia. Finnish researchers showed that they were able to slow the onset of dementia in people at high risk with a program that included:
• a healthful lifestyle aimed at preventing heart attacks,
• heart attack risk monitoring, and
• exercises to improve memory (Lancet, March 11, 2015).
The study group contained 1260 people, aged 60-77, who were at high risk for dementia because they had average or below-average memory scores and high heart-attack-risk factors. Half of the group participated in the intervention program for two years, while half served as the control group. After two years, the intervention group had a 150 percent greater ability to process new information and an 83 percent greater improvement in cognitive function, compared to the control group. However, memory had not improved in either group.
Why Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Heart Attacks May Also Delay Dementia
Other studies have shown that factors that predict increased risk for heart attacks are also good predictors of risk for dementia (Neurology, April 2, 2013). For example, arteriosclerosis that damages the arteries leading to the heart also damages the arteries that lead to the brain to cause ministrokes and strokes. All of the steps you can take to reduce risk for a heart attack can also help to prevent dementia:
• exercising and growing muscles,
• losing weight if overweight,
• eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds,
• restricting red meat, fried foods, sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, refined carbohydrates and alcohol
• avoiding smoking, and
• avoiding vitamin D deficiency.