Scientists Describe Lifestyle Choices That Can Slow Memory Decline

A study following nearly 30,000 older adults for more than 10 years has found six key healthy lifestyle factors can significantly reduce memory loss in old age. The new research set out to quantify the impact of several healthy lifestyle factors on age-related memory decline in an elderly cohort.

The goal was to understand what effect certain lifestyle factors had on slowing memory decline in old age.

“Six healthy lifestyle factors were assessed: A healthy diet, regular physical exercise, active social contact, active cognitive activity, never or previously smoked, and never drinking alcohol,” the researchers explained in the new study.

“Participants were categorized into the favorable group if they had four to six healthy lifestyle factors, into the average group for two to three factors, and into the unfavorable group for zero to one factor.”

The results found those participants in the favorable lifestyle group showed significantly slower rates of memory decline over a 10-year period compared to those subjects in the average or unfavorable groups.

Participants in the average group, with two to three healthy lifestyle behaviors, were only 30% less likely to develop dementia, suggesting a significant increase in cognitive benefits can be gained by adding more healthy behaviors to the lifestyle mix.

In this group the combination of several healthy lifestyle behaviors also slowed the rate of memory decline, suggesting significant benefits can be garnered from lifestyle changes even in those with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s.

“Although each lifestyle factor contributed differentially to slowing memory decline, our results showed that participants who maintained more healthy lifestyle factors had a significantly slower memory decline than those with fewer healthy lifestyle factors,” the study concludes.