Elderly folk who are physically active appear to be at lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as are those who eat a heart-healthy diet, rich n fruits and vegetables and low in red meat. A new study has found that the effects of the two types of lifestyle behaviour are independent – and the benefits add up.
The Columbia University study followed a diverse group of 1,880 New Yorkers in their 70s, assessing their diets and levels of physical activity, and screening them periodically for Alzheimer’s disease. After an average of five years, 282 cases of Alzheimer’s were diagnosed.
Those who followed the healthiest diets were 40 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with the worst diets, and those who got the most exercise were 37 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who got none. However, the greatest benefits occurred in those who both ate healthy and remained active.
Participants who scored in the top one-third for both diet and exercise were 59 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s then those who scored in the lowest one-third.
While one in five participants with the lowest scores developed Alzheimer’s fewer than one in ten of the top scorers developed the disease.
Diet may be protective because it can improve metabolic factors and reduce cardiovascular risks, inflammation and oxidative stress, suggested Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Centre and the main author of the paper published in The Journal Of The American Medical Association.
He added that the amount of activity needed to make a difference was not very substantial; the most active elderly were getting only about four hours of moderate activity or 1.3 hours of vigorous activity each week.
- The Hew York Times