05/07/2010 - Articles

Healthy living in middle years could prevent dementia

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


As the population ages, so the number of cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, will increase. The costs of dementia in terms of lost independence and care requirements are steep, to both the individual and society. Therefore, isn’t it in everyone’s interests to do whatever possible to prevent dementia? The problem is, we do not, as yet, have a single solution to the challenge of warding off dementia or at least slowing its approach. However, experts in health and aging at the University of Edinburgh have now come up with some recommendations based on the best evidence we have on dementia prevention.

Dr Tom Russ and Professor John Starr say that there are four factors that should be looked at in mid-life – not later – that may help ward off dementia in years to come. Increasing exercise levels, reducing obesity and keeping both blood pressure and cholesterol under control are the important four. Combining these elements into a healthy living approach could reduce your risk of dementia by 20%, the experts say.

The evidence on how exercise might reduce the risk of dementia is quite complicated; some studies suggest that only women benefit, for instance. But no-one would argue that exercise has many other benefits. Lowering blood pressure in later life does not seem to be effective against dementia nor does taking statins to lower cholesterol. The evidence is better for taking measures on blood pressure and cholesterol and obesity earlier in life. Therefore, the same healthy living efforts you may be familiar with for prevention of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, also apply to prevention of dementia. So, don’t leave it too late – start today and step up your exercise levels, and make sure you ‘know your numbers’ when it comes to blood pressure and cholesterol. You will be protecting your mind as well as your body.



Russ T and Starr J BMJ Clinical Evidence 1st April 2010


Created on: 05/07/2010
Reviewed on: 05/07/2010

No votes yet