Study shows how healthy lifestyle may help cognition after 80

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The benefits of a good lifestyle on cognitive health have been connected by various studies. Now, a new one shows that no matter if a person carries a certain gene, a healthy lifestyle is tied to a decreased cognitive impairment risk.

APOE is a gene that comes in various forms. People who have APOE ε4 have an enhanced risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The new study sought to clarify whether the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are influenced by APOE ε4. It focused on adults over 80.

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China’s Duke Kunshan University researchers published the study in the journal PLOS Medicine.

The team analyzed data from 6,160 adults 80 or older who had participated in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. They investigated connections to APOE ε4, cognition and lifestyle. They considered sociodemographic and other factors that could affect cognition, too.

It was confirmed that those with healthy or intermediately healthy lifestyles were 55% less likely to have cognitive impairment compared to participants with an unhealthy lifestyle. The latter had a 28% lower risk. APOE ε4-gene participates were also 17% more likely to have cognitive impairment than people with other forms of the gene.

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A past study indicated that people with low and intermediate genetic risk and favorable lifestyle characteristics were linked to decreased dementia risk compared to people with unfavorable characteristics. Such links were not discovered in people with high genetic risk, however. Yet the study indicated an association between lifestyle and cognitive impairment didn’t have a noticeable change based on APOE ε4 being present.

“Our results suggest the importance of a healthier lifestyle for cognition regardless of genetic dementia risk and increases our understanding of this relationship in the oldest older adults (80 years and older),” the authors wrote.

Next, the team will investigate the link using the polygenetic risk score for Alzheimer’s disease. They’ll also look into the relationship between that score and lifestyle and how it affects cognition.

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