A new study has found that both physical and mental exercises may protect against age-related dementia. The results of the study were published in the journal The Lancet.
The study conducted by researchers from Finland and Sweden was meant to examine if a healthy, active lifestyle that included brain training, correct management of vascular and metabolic risk factors and exercise had any impact on age-related dementia.
For the study, 1,260 Finnish participants with ages between 60 and 77 were recruited. There were given standardized tests and it was concluded that all the patients were considered to be at risk of dementia. Then, the group was split in two: the control group and the intervention group.
The people in the intervention group had regular meetings over the course of 2 years with health professionals. They were given comprehensive advice on how to maintain a healthy diet, they were told how to train their muscles and hearts, they were taught how to perform mental exercises and how to use blood tests to manage vascular and metabolic risk factors.
The control group did not receive any training or advice of any kind.
At the end of the 2-year study period, the participants were given the standardized Neuropsychological Test Battery to have their mental function assessed. It was found that the intervention group scored 25% higher (which translated into better mental functioning) than the control group.
The researchers also found that the intervention group also scored 83% higher that the control on the ability to regulate and organize thought processes and a whopping 150% higher on processing speed.
In order to establish whether the reduction in cognitive decline is also followed by a reduction in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the participants will be followed for at least 7 more years.
Lead author of the study, Professor Miia Kivipelto, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden declared that much of the research done previous to theirs has shown that there are links between age-related cognitive decline and factors such as fitness, diet and heart health. She concluded:
However, our study is the first large randomized controlled trial to show that an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia.
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