Research suggests combination of healthy lifestyle factors may protect cognitive function


CHARLESTON — Lifestyle factors such as nutrition and the amount of sleep, exercise and the social interaction one engages in can positively affect life expectancy. But recent brain health research suggests that those factors may also stave off cognitive impairment.

On June 8, the Alzheimer’s Association will host a free statewide webinar to discuss the latest advances in dementia-related research and key strategies that may help to keep the brain healthy at “Brain Aware: Research on Reducing Dementia Risk.” Dr. Claire Sexton, Senior Director, Scientific Programs & Outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, will discuss the role of modifiable factors in reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia at the 6 p.m. program. Dr. Sexton leads research programs and initiatives to accelerate the scientific agenda of the Alzheimer’s Association.

A Q&A segment, where those in attendance can ask questions, will be included. Preregistration is required at alz.org/R10brainhealth to receive the Zoom link to join the event. Individuals can also call 1 (800) 272-3900 to register.

“A recent study indicated that lifestyle factors are not only associated with increased life expectancy, but also a larger proportion of years lived without Alzheimer’s dementia,” Dr. Sexton said. “In other words, lifestyle factors may not only help you to live longer, but also to live well in those years,” Dr. Sexton said.

Sharon Covert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter, said, “This event will inform people on steps they can take today to increase their chances of life without Alzheimer’s or dementia. With 39,000 people in West Virginia, ages 65 and older, living with Alzheimer’s and dementia we’ve got to talk about the factors that may delay dementia,” she said.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal brain disease that kills nerve cells and tissues in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan, speak, walk. The Alzheimer’s Association, which is the largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s and dementia research, is supporting a full portfolio of research to better brain health, from laboratory-based studies that examine the molecular mechanisms that mediate the cognitive benefits of exercise, through to community-based studies. One such example of the latter is the U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk – known as U.S. POINTER – a two-year clinical trial to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions that simultaneously target multiple risk factors can protect cognitive function in older adults (age 60-79) at increased risk for cognitive decline.

“There aren’t any guarantees,” Dr. Sexton said. “Age is the biggest factor and our genetics play a role as well. We know these lifestyle factors do not guarantee that someone will or will not develop dementia, but when we look at the population level though, certain factors are associated with decreased risk.”

Dr. Sexton said there is potential in combining different efforts to decrease risk. For example, individuals should not just think about physical activity while disregarding a healthy diet.

“It’s holistic,” she said. “It’s never too early or never too late to start thinking about your risk. Adults of any age can be mindful of risk and can learn about research,” she said.

About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. Visit alz.org or call 1 (800) 272-3900.

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