Healthy lifestyle may offset genetic risk of dementia – Alzheimer’s Society comment

New research has highlighted that living a healthy lifestyle may help offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia.

The research, published today in JAMA(1) and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles, from the University of Exeter, found that the risk of dementia was 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Fiona Carragher, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, commented:

'From research we supported, we know that a third of dementia cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes. This study takes our understanding a step further, showing that healthy behaviours can help even in people who have a higher risk due to their genes.  

'This is a well-powered and thoughtfully designed study that starts to tease apart the complex interplay between our genes and lifestyle choices when it comes to dementia risk.

'Its strengths include using a combination of known Alzheimer’s risk genes to get a more accurate indication of genetic risk and its large sample size made possible through UK Biobank. 

'Dementia is the most feared condition in the over 50s. Unsurprisingly, one of the most frequent questions we get asked is whether someone who has watched their parent develop dementia, will go on to develop it too.

'Reassuringly, this study suggests that, even if you have a high genetic risk of developing dementia, adopting risk reducing techniques like eating well, not smoking, drinking less alcohol and keeping active can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia.

'With one person developing dementia every three minutes in the UK, knowing how to lower our dementia risk couldn’t be more vital. So hit that salad bar, swap a cocktail for a mocktail and get your exercise kit on!'