A healthy lifestyle is associated with slower memory decline

Six healthy lifestyle factors have shown to decrease memory decline in over-60s.

A healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and seeing friends or relatives at least twice a week may help to slow memory decline and reduce the risk of dementia, shows a ten-year long study.

Memory is a fundamental function of daily life, yet it continuously declines as people age. Therefore, the prevention and slowing of age related memory decline in older adults needs to be a priority. Fortunately, memory decline is not a sure thing because various factors are associated with memory loss.

In this population based study a healthy lifestyle was shown to be associated with slower memory decline. Participants from the north, south, and west of China, aged 60 years or older who had normal cognition were followed over ten years. During this time, six lifestyle factors were assessed to see whether a healthy lifestyle is able to slow memory decline.

Six Lifestyle Factors

  • A healthy diet
  • Regular physical activity
  • Active social contact
  • Active cognitive activity
  • Never, or previously, smoked
  • Never drinking alcohol

At the beginning of the study, participants were categorised into the favourable group if they had four to six healthy lifestyle factors, into the average group for two to three healthy lifestyle factors, and into the unfavourable group for one to no healthy lifestyle factor. Likewise, memory function and global cognition were assessed.

The results of the study show that over the 10 years, participants in the favourable group had slower memory decline than those in the unfavourable group. Average lifestyles exhibited a slower memory decline than those with unfavourable lifestyles. A healthy diet had the most effect on slowing memory decline, followed by cognitive activity and physical exercise.

This study shows that a healthy lifestyle is associated with slower memory decline, and can offer important information to protect older adults. The results provide strong evidence that a healthy lifestyle with a combination of positive behaviours, such as never or former smoking, never drinking, a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, and active cognitive activity and social contact, is associated with a slower rate of memory decline.

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