Reduce risk of dementia?

A healthy social life could have healthy benefits for the brain

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What can reduce the risk of dementia?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

There is currently no cure to dementia, but there are potential methods to reduce the risk of the brain condition.

New research has found that people who were regularly visited by friends and family were less likely to develop dementia.

Other studies show that lifestyle changes - such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly - could also protect against the disease.

The Claim

A healthy social life in middle age could protect against dementia, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) examined data tracking over 10,000 people across three decades, asking about their frequency of social contact with friends and relatives. The participants also completed cognitive testing from 1997 onwards.

They found that people who saw friends or family almost daily were 12 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

The researchers said that social contact is "beneficial by building cognitive reserve, or greater brain resilience".

Dr Andrew Sommerlad, the study's lead researcher, said: "We’ve found that social contact, in middle age and late life, appears to lower the risk of dementia.

"This finding could feed into strategies to reduce everyone’s risk of developing dementia, adding yet another reason to promote connected communities and find ways to reduce isolation and loneliness."

The Counterclaim

According to Quartz, the evidence is mounting that healthy lifestyle changes can help keep Alzheimer’s at bay.

A study by Rush University in Illinois, which involved nearly 3,000 older adults, found that five lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of dementia - but they only worked if individuals committed to them.

Researchers found that people who followed four out of five lifestyle behaviours over six years had a 60 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, compared to those who practiced only one or none of these habits.

The lifestyle changes include regular exercise, cognitive stimulation (such as crosswords), a "brain-healthy" diet, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.

The Facts

According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. This will rise to two million by 2051.

It is estimated that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year - that's one in every three minutes.

There is currently no cure or medication to help with the symptoms of dementia.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. It affects around six in every 10 people with dementia.

The majority of people who develop Alzheimer's disease are over the age of 65. Symptoms include: memory loss, confusion, and problems with speech and understanding. It is a terminal condition.

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