Scientists have unlocked the secrets to maintaining a sharp mind in later years.
A recent study published in JAMA Neurology identified five lifestyle factors that contribute to brain health as individuals age.
Examining the autopsies of 586 individuals who lived to an average age of 91, the study linked healthy habits to a reduced risk of cognitive decline, even in those showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The participants, part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, underwent regular mental and physical tests for over two decades.
Factors for improved brain health included no smoking, engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise, limited alcohol consumption, participating in brain-stimulating activities, and following a variation of the MIND diet.
The study participants were labeled as following a healthy lifestyle if they made certain daily choices:
- No smoking.
- Doing moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week.
- Limit alcohol use to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
- Engage in brain-stimulating activities, like reading, playing games, and visiting museums.
- Follow a variation of the MIND diet.
The “MIND” stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” It encourages people to have green, leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry and a glass of wine.
Lead author Dr Klodian Dhana emphasised the study’s goal to explore if lifestyle choices could influence the development of dementia amid progressive brain changes with age.
Participants with healthier lifestyles demonstrated lower levels of beta-amyloid plaques, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and scored better on cognitive tests measuring memory and attention span.
The benefits persisted regardless of whether participants displayed signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s in their brains, highlighting the enduring impact of adopting these positive lifestyle factors on cognitive well-being.
Rohit Malhotra is a medical expert and health journalist who offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being. His articles aim to help readers lead healthier lives.