It may be possible to prevent Alzheimer’s disease for those already experiencing cognitive decline, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).
ANU PhD candidate, Mitchell McMaster, created a lifestyle modification program and found it reduced dementia risk for people over 65 experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“It looks like you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, even when you are at an older age and experiencing cognitive decline,” Mr McMaster, from the ANU Centre for Research on Aging, Health and Wellbeing, said.
“It is a really good indication that if you modify your lifestyle there is still hope to reduce dementia risk, which is a really exciting finding for this field of study.”
A group of 119 participants spent six months making changes to their lifestyle with dietitians, exercise physiologists, completing brain training and adhering to a Mediterranean diet, while a control group completed online education to make changes to their lifestyle independently.
At the end of the six months, those who were given the additional guidance experienced a significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improvement in cognitive abilities compared to those who weren’t given the extra support.
“People who reported having cognitive decline or mild symptoms relating to Alzheimer’s disease were able to turn it around with active lifestyle changes relating to exercise, a healthy diet and brain training,” Mr McMaster said.
“This study really confirms that for those already experiencing cognitive decline it’s never too late to make some positive changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of dementia.
“Through greater research and investigation into this area, we could see some fantastic developments for the future of Alzheimer’s prevention.”
Bob Gardiner, a participant of Mr McMaster’s study, has since lost 7kg, got back into exercise and went on to publish a children’s book due to the effectiveness of the program.
“I was prepared to go through anything,” Mr Gardiner said.
“When we did the questionnaire, they asked my greatest fear and I said it was losing my marbles.”
Mr McMaster’s PhD scholarship was supported by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, alongside Neuroscience Research Australia.
The full study can be found here.