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Jun 12, 2015

Lifestyle Changes can Reduce Your Risk For Dementia

The World Health Organization and the G8 Dementia Summit of 2013 have stressed the need for prevention to stop the growing dementia epidemic. Thus the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) did a randomized controlled study to determine the impact of lifestyle intervention to prevent cognitive decline in the at-risk elderly in the general population.
The study the first randomized control study of its kind targeted multiple lifestyle factors, including physical activity, diet, vascular risk factors, brain training and slowed cognitive decline among older healthy individuals. The study showed that prevention is the key in treating dementia.
"The FINGER study is the first large-scale, long-term randomized controlled trial of a lifestyle intervention and the first to demonstrate that multiple changes in lifestyle can improve memory and thinking in older adults who are at risk for cognitive decline. 
The study included 1260 people, aged 60 to 77 years, from across Finland who were randomly assigned to the intervention group or to the control group, who received regular health advice only.
The participants had not yet experienced substantial memory problems but were thought to be at risk for cognitive impairment on the basis of a dementia risk score of 6 or more (on a scale of 0 - 15) that considered age, gender, education, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity. They also underwent cognitive testing; individuals with cognitive performance at the mean level or slightly lower than expected for age according to Finnish population norms were selected.
The intervention group focused on 4 lifestyle changes such as:
§  Physical exercise with physiotherapists at a gym consisting of individually tailored programs for progressive muscle strength training (1 - 3 times per week) and aerobic exercise (2 - 5 times per week).
§  Nutritional advice based on the Finnish Nutrition Recommendations from nutritionists (3 individual sessions and 7 - 9 group sessions)
§  Cognitive training (10 group sessions with a trained psychologist and individual sessions consisting of computer-based training conducted in 2 periods of 6 months each, with each period including 72 training sessions (3 times per week, 10 - 15 minutes per session).
§  Management of blood pressure, weight, neuropsychological test battery (NTB), hip and waist circumference, physical examinations, and recommendations for lifestyle management. The physicians used in the study did not provide any medications.
At the end of two years the cognitive tests were repeated and the intervention group had a 25% improvement in the overall cognitive score compared with the control group. The benefit was particularly noted in the person’s processing ability and the speed at which an individual can conduct different brain and motor tasks. These lifestyle changes are simple and can prevent many chronic diseases.  Anything that challenges your brain such as memory games, puzzles, problem-solving, time tests, learning a new skill also helps prevent memory loss.  Doing activities that combine social, cognitive, and physical factors are the best such as joining a group to learn a new language, attend a dance class, a hiking group or a book group. Join the 50’s Club here in the Vail Valley.
In a Lancet study, researchers reported that one-third of cases of Alzheimer disease worldwide could be attributable to low education, low physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and depression.
This study suggests that worldwide prevalence of Alzheimer's disease could be reduced by 8.3% by 2050 instead of increasing every year.  Small changes can have major effects not just with Alzheimer’s but all chronic disease. This study associates dementia with coronary heart disease and diabetes because these are chronic diseases that can be preventable. 
Dr. Wiancek is a naturopathic doctor and owner of the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy working in the valley for seventeen years.  She believes we can all reach optimal health with dietart and lifetstyle changes.  Her web-site Wiancek@healthref.com and to make an appointment please call 970-926-7606.