US researchers have determined that following a healthy lifestyle can protect against the cognitive decline of Alzheimer's (and other forms of dementia) regardless of the presence of amyloid beta plaques, tau protein tangles and other neuropathological signs in the brain.
It's long been known that keeping your mind trained and living a healthy lifestyle can protect against cognitive decline linked to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia , but thanks to a new study, a surprising discovery has been made. Simply put, it has been determined that it is never too late to engage in a healthy, active lifestyle, even when the signs of Alzheimer's – such as beta amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles associated with neurodegeneration – have already set in. accumulated in the brain .
Research, in fact, by comparing the pathological signs linked to dementia and the lifestyle of hundreds of people, has revealed that the latter is preponderant in maintaining cognitive abilities , regardless of the presence of neuropathologies . In other words, the brain “damaged” by the typical signs of dementia does not result in an irreparable cognitive decline, if the person reads, studies, follows a healthy diet and remains physically active. This is a particularly interesting finding since even those who already show signs of Alzheimer's may be able to counteract the erosion of cognition. It is clear that it was an observation study , therefore without being able to bring out cause-effect relationships, but it is certainly an additional incentive to pursue a healthy lifestyle, associated with protection from multiple medical conditions.
A US research team led by scientists from the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at the Medical Center has determined that a healthy lifestyle can protect against cognitive decline regardless of the presence of signs of Alzheimer's (and other forms of dementia) in the brain. from Rush University (Chicago), who collaborated closely with colleagues from various institutes: Department of Internal Medicine; Alzheimer's Disease Center; Department of Neurological Sciences and Department of Pathology. The researchers, coordinated by Professor Klodian Dhana, reached their conclusions after comparing the neuropathologies associated with dementia – such as accumulation of amyloid beta, phosphorylated tau tangles, cerebral vascular damage , hippocampal sclerosis, TAR DNA binding protein 43 and Lewy bodies – with the lifestyle and cognitive abilities (close to death) of approximately 600 people. To do this, they turned to participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project study conducted between 1997 and 2022, during which patients underwent in-depth neuropathological evaluations, cognitive tests and the completion of lifestyle questionnaires (for over 20 years). All the subjects involved in the new study, who underwent autopsy, died at an average age of almost 91 years: among them 415 were women (70.8 percent) and 171 men (29.2 percent).
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To compare signs of dementia, cognitive decline and lifestyle, Professor Dhana and colleagues divided the participants based on whether they pursued a more or less healthy lifestyle, assigning a score into five different categories: smoking habit ; moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day for women, 2 for men); physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week; keeping the mind trained with reading, studying, word games and the like; adherence to the Mediterranean DASH diet or the MIND diet , characterized by the predominant consumption of plant foods such as seeds, legumes, dried fruit and extra virgin olive oil, as well as little red meat and so on.
By assigning one point for each category, the researchers determined that the higher the healthy lifestyle score, the better the cognitive performance recorded near death, through a series of tests that assessed cognition from different points of view : attention, language, memory, visuospatial skills and more. All this “regardless of the pathological burden of Alzheimer's disease”, that is, the presence of signs in the brain detected in the brain. “Neither the strength nor the significance of the lifestyle-cognition association changed substantially when β-amyloid load, phosphorylated tau tangles, or other dementia-related brain pathologies were included in the regression model,” the researchers explained. scholars. In purely numerical terms, more than 88 percent of cognitive abilities were associated with lifestyle, while the accumulation of beta-amyloid affected only about 12 percent .
“A healthy lifestyle can provide a cognitive reserve to maintain cognitive abilities regardless of common dementia neuropathologies,” the scientists explained in the study abstract. As indicated, this was an observational cohort study and it is not possible to emerge a cause-effect relationship between lifestyle and cognitive decline, however the results are extremely significant and can push people to change their lifestyle life to reduce the risks of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, as explained by professors Yue Leng and Kristine Yaffe in an editorial that accompanied the launch of the study. Details of the research “Healthy Lifestyle and Cognition in Older Adults With Common Neuropathologies of Dementia” were published in the journal JAMA.