Dr. Gabe Mirkin, whose newsletter I have been reading for years, and highly recommend, reported on a study published last summer: you can reduce your risk of dementia by up to 70 percent when you follow the same healthful habits that help to prevent heart attacks.
The study found that each lifestyle risk factor for heart attacks is also a risk factor for dementia, and correcting each heart attack risk factor reduces the risk of dementia.
The seven healthful habits from the study:
• avoid smoking and smoke
• avoid overweight (maintain a BMI—body mass index—of less than 25)
• exercise regularly
• eat fruits and vegetables at least three times a day and fish twice a week
• have total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL (untreated)
• have fasting blood sugar below 100 mg/dL (untreated)
• have blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg at bedtime (untreated)
Changing from unhealthful to healthful reduced the risk of dementia by approximately 10 percent for each factor; the people who scored well on all seven factors had a 70 percent lower risk for dementia.
This doesn’t surprise me because every article about habits that help avoid adverse health conditions of all types, the list is essentially the same. (This article from the New York Times says obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, all of which have risen to epidemic levels in recent years, are linked to pancreatic cancer.)
Nearly all the factors above can be impacted by exercise and eating habits. Yes, there is some heredity, but heredity can be overcome to a large extent by lifestyle.
That will work both ways: if you have “good” genes, you can still mess it up with an unhealthy lifestyle (lack of exercise, poor eating habits, smoking). But, this blog doesn’t focus on the ways you can mess up your health. We focus on the ways to make things better and Dr. Mirkin also reported on studies showing that lifestyle factors can have a positive impact on the way your body responds to your genes, as I wrote about in this post.
What lifestyle changes have you begun to make this year? Please join the conversation with your comments…