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Minneapolis Seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors may play a role in reducing dementia risk in people with the highest genetic risk, according to research published online May 25, 2022. Neurology®Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The seven factors of cardiovascular and brain health, known as the American Heart Association’s 7 Simple Life, are: being active, eating better, losing weight, not smoking, maintaining healthy blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar.

“These healthy habits in Life’s Simple 7 have been linked to a lower overall risk of dementia, but it is uncertain whether the same is true for people at high genetic risk,” said study author Adrienne Tin, PhD, from the University of Mississippi. Jackson Medical Center. “The good news is that even for people at a higher genetic risk, living the same healthy lifestyle are likely to have a lower risk of developing dementia.”

The study looked at 8,823 people of European descent and 2,738 people of African descent who were followed for 30 years. The subjects’ average age was 54 at the start of the study.

Study participants reported their levels in all seven health factors. The total score ranged from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most harmful outcome and 14 being the healthiest score. The mean score among those of European descent was 8.3 and the mean score among those of African descent was 6.6.

Genetic risk scores were calculated at the start of the study using genome-wide statistics for Alzheimer’s disease, which have been used for researchers to study genetic risk for dementia.

Participants of European descent were divided into five groups and participants of African descent were divided into three groups based on genetic risk scores. The group with the highest genetic risk included people with at least one copy of the APOE gene variant associated with Alzheimer’s disease, APOE e4. Among those of European ancestry, 27.9% had the APOE e4 variant, while of those with African ancestry, 40.4% had the APOE e4 variant. The lowest-risk group had the APOE e2 variant, which was associated with a lower risk of dementia.

By the end of the study, 1,603 people of European descent developed dementia and 631 people of African descent developed dementia.

For people of European descent, the researchers found that people with the highest scores on lifestyle factors had a lower risk of developing dementia across all five genetic risk groups, including the group with the highest genetic risk of developing dementia. For every one-point increase in the lifestyle factor score, there was a 9% lower risk of developing dementia. Among those of European descent, compared to the low category of lifestyle factor score, the medium and high categories were associated with a 30% and 43% risk of developing dementia, respectively. Among those of African descent, the middle and high categories were associated with a 6% and 17% lower risk of developing dementia, respectively.

Among people of African descent, researchers found a similar pattern of lower risk of dementia in all three groups among those with higher scores on lifestyle factors. But the researchers said the smaller number of participants in this group limited the results, so more research is needed.

“Larger sample sizes from diverse populations are needed to obtain more reliable estimates of the effects of these modifiable health factors on dementia risk within different genetic risk groups and ancestral backgrounds,” Tin said.

The limitation of the study was the smaller sample size among people of African descent and that many African American participants were recruited from one location.

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Learn more about dementia at BrainandLife.org, the home of the American Academy of Neurology’s Journal of Free Patients and Providers that focuses on the intersection of neurological diseases and brain health. Follow brain and life® in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The American Academy of Neurology is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscientists, with more than 38,000 members. AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality of patient-centered neurological care. A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

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