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How to Say ‘NO’ to Dementia

It was about two and a half months ago that we posted about the diagnostics telling Chris Hemsworth he had the APOE4 genes that predispose a person to Alzheimer’s disease. Clearly Mr. Hemsworth has embraced, and will continue to embrace, specific habits to deny Alzheimer’s Disease an opportunity to take over.

An article recently released in The British Medical Journal has documented six healthy lifestyle habits that you don’t have to be Chris Hemsworth to follow…good thing, because no one can really compete with Thor.  Without getting too granular, the researchers recruited nearly 30,000 individuals with a mean age of about 72 years and no evidence of dementia and then followed them from 2009 to 2019 with measurements every two years.

They measured participants’ statuses on six “lifestyle factors”…factors that are within the control of participants and therefore modifiable:  Exercise, smoking (or not), alcohol consumption (or not), healthy diet, cognitive activity and sociability.  Here is a link to the research if you want to drill down into what comprises “exercise,” “healthy diet” etc.   Take a moment to rank these from most important to least important before I share the results!

The first four are all significant at the p<.001 level…translated, this means that the odds that these factors do not influence cognitive health are less that one in a thousand.  Lower levels of significance, like those for the last two lifestyle activities are at a p <.05.  In other words, the odds that they do not influence cognition are about one out of twenty were one to replicate the research.

From most impact to least – but all statistically significant:

  1. Healthy Diet – a daily measure of consumption of 12 food groups such as products like dairy, fish, vegetables, fruits and such;
  2. Physical activity – measured as the participants’ weekly amount of time devoted to cardiovascular exertion;
  3. Cognitive Activity – consists of reading, playing games like chess or mahjong and writing…I think Wordle and crossword puzzles also apply;
  4. Social engagement – includes participation in meetings, clubs and even parties as well as travel or even online chatting;
  5. Smoking – simply ranked as “never,” “former” and “current” smokers is among those activities that count for something, but appreciably less than the top four;
  6. Alcohol consumption – is measured by categories: “never drank,” “drank occasionally,” “low to excessive drinking,” and “heavy drinking,” and it has the least impact of the six categories.

Okay, we’ve moved beyond New Year’s resolutions, so maybe these are part of what can be our commitments to retaining our cognitive function?  Worth the effort?

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia. 


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