Exercise, not smoking, moderate drinking, a Mediterranean diet and mentally stimulating activities were linked to a lower Alzheimer’s risk.

Five behaviors are associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a new study in Neurology suggests, and the more of them you follow, the lower your risk.

Researchers used detailed diet and lifestyle information from two databases, one of 1,845 people whose average age was 73, the other of 920 people whose average age was 81. All were free of Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the study. They followed them for an average of about six years, during which 608 developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers scored the participants on their adherence to five behaviors: not smoking, consistent moderate or intense physical activity, light to moderate alcohol consumption, a high-quality Mediterranean-style diet, and engagement in late-life cognitively challenging activity.

Compared to those with none or one of the healthy lifestyle factors, those with two or three had a 37 percent reduced risk for Alzheimer dementia, and those with four or five had a 60 percent reduced risk.

The lead author, Dr. Klodian Dhana, an assistant professor of medicine at Rush Medical College, said that the paper focuses on modifiable risk factors. All five of these factors are related to each other, he added, and work best in combination.

“My top recommendations are to engage in cognitively stimulating activities such as reading books and newspapers and playing brain-stimulating games, like chess and checkers,” he said. “Also, exercising regularly and following a diet for a healthy brain that includes green leafy vegetables every day, berries, nuts, poultry, fish, and limited fried food.”


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