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‘Exciting’ new research finds healthy lifestyle reduces dementia risk, regardless of genetics

New “exciting” research coming out of the UK has found that a healthy lifestyle, which includes physical activity and low alcohol consumption, can significantly lower the risk of dementia, regardless of a genetic predisposition to the disease.

The University of Exeter-led research looked at data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older from UK Biobank, and found that the risk of dementia was 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers identified 1,769 cases of dementia in the data sample over a follow-up period of eight years and these cases were grouped as high, intermediate and low genetic risk for dementia. They then assessed lifestyle and grouped people in accordance with their levels of smoking, physical activity, diet and alcohol consumption.

“This is the first study to analyse the extent to which you may offset your genetic risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle. Our findings are exciting as they show that we can take action to try to offset our genetic risk for dementia. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced risk of dementia, regardless of the genetic risk,” said joint lead author Dr Elżbieta Kuźma.

The study found that living a healthy lifestyle concurred with lower risk of dementia across all genetic risk groups.

Joint lead author Dr David Llewellyn, from the University of Exeter Medical School and the Alan Turing Institute, said: “This research delivers a really important message that undermines a fatalistic view of dementia. Some people believe it’s inevitable they’ll develop dementia because of their genetics. However, it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.”

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