New US research has found that following certain healthy lifestyle habits, such as not smoking and doing regular exercise, could substantially lower an individual’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Carried out by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, the new study looked at 2,765 participants and gave them a score based on how well they adhered to five healthy lifestyle factors: doing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity; not smoking; light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, following a high-quality, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet (which combines the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet); and how much they kept their mind active by engaging in cognitive activities.

The participants also underwent clinical assessments for Alzheimer’s disease and were followed for a median of around six years.

The findings, published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed that the risk of Alzheimer’s was 37 percent lower for the participants with two to three healthy lifestyle factors, compared to those with none or just one, while those who followed four or all of the five of the healthy habits benefited from a 60 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s.

The healthy lifestyle habits included in the study can improve health at all ages, but previous research has also shown how they can help specifically boost cognitive health; keeping intellectually engaged and the mind active can have benefits for brain health, as can reducing alcohol intake, while the MIND diet has been developed with a focus on plant-based foods that have been linked to dementia prevention.

“This population-based study helps paint the picture of how multiple factors are likely playing parts in Alzheimer’s disease risk,” said researcher Dallas Anderson, Ph.D., “It’s not a clear cause and effect result, but a strong finding because of the dual data sets and combination of modifiable lifestyle factors that appear to lead to risk reduction.”

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