A healthy lifestyle can offset the genetic risk of dementia
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists report that people at high genetic risk of developing dementia who made healthy lifestyle choices had a lower risk of developing dementia than people at high genetic risk who made unhealthy lifestyle choices.
The researchers retrospectively studied a group of people of European descent aged 60 and over who, at the start of the study, did not have cognitive impairment and did not have dementia. They constructed two types of risk scores for each of the more than 196,000 study participants: a genetic risk score and a healthy lifestyle score. Since previous research has shown that multiple genes influence the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia, the genetic risk score takes into account multiple versions of various genetic mutations. The healthy lifestyle score took into account known risk factors for dementia: whether or not people smoked tobacco, whether they engaged in regular physical activity, ate a healthy diet, and consumed alcohol in moderation. Dementia was determined from hospital patient records and deaths. Statistical models were used to estimate associations between genetic risk, lifestyle risk and the combination of these two risks on the risk of developing dementia.
The effect of genetic risk on the risk of dementia
As the genetic risk category changed from low to intermediate to high genetic risk, scientists observed an increased risk of developing dementia. People at intermediate genetic risk had a 1.3-fold increase in the risk of developing dementia, compared to the low-risk group. People with a high genetic risk of developing dementia saw an almost double risk of developing dementia compared to the low genetic risk group. Of those at low genetic risk, about 1 in 150 people have developed dementia. For people in the high genetic risk group, the risk of developing dementia has increased to about 1 in 80 people.
The effect of lifestyle on the risk of dementia
As the lifestyle categories shifted from favorable to intermediate to unfavorable, researchers reported an increased risk of developing dementia. Study participants with intermediate lifestyle scores were about 1.2 times more likely to develop dementia, compared to people with favorable lifestyle scores. Participants with unfavorable lifestyle scores were approximately 1.4 times more likely to develop dementia, compared to people with favorable lifestyle scores. Among people who had favorable lifestyle scores, about 1 in 120 people suffered from dementia. For people in the unfavorable lifestyle category, the risk of developing dementia increased to about 1 in 85.
The Effects of Genetic Risk and Lifestyle on Dementia Risk
As the genetic risk increased and lifestyle choices became unfavorable, the risk of developing dementia increased. For all genetic risk groups, a favorable lifestyle was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia than an unfavorable lifestyle. Among those at low genetic risk, those with unfavorable lifestyles had an approximately 1.5-fold risk of developing dementia compared to those with favorable lifestyles.
Among study participants with intermediate genetic risk, people with favorable lifestyle scores were approximately 1.4 times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with low genetic risk and style scores. favorable life. For people with intermediate genetic risk and unfavorable lifestyle scores, the risk of developing dementia was increased by about 1.7 times compared to people with low genetic risk and a favorable lifestyle.
Finally, for people who had a high genetic risk, people with favorable lifestyle scores had an approximately doubled risk of developing dementia compared to people who had a low genetic risk and a lifestyle score. favorable.
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People with high genetic risk and an unfavorable lifestyle had an almost 3-fold increase in the risk of developing dementia compared to people with low genetic risk and a favorable lifestyle. Among the young study participants who had a low genetic risk and a favorable lifestyle score, about 1 in 180 people developed dementia. For people with high genetic risk and an unfavorable lifestyle, the risk of developing dementia has increased to about 1 in 55 people.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Scientists found that in this population of people who did not initially have cognitive impairment or dementia, both with a high genetic risk score and a low healthy lifestyle score were each associated with a higher risk of develop dementia. For study participants who fell into the high genetic risk category, having a favorable lifestyle score outweighed the increased genetic risk - these participants had a lower risk of developing dementia than those with dementia. unfavorable lifestyle score.
Having a high genetic risk score and a low healthy lifestyle score were both associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.
RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY
While it is known that certain genetic factors may increase the risk of developing dementia, this study fills a gap in the literature because it is not known to what extent lifestyle choices can compensate for this increased risk. Additionally, the study advances our understanding because, to the authors' knowledge, no previous study has examined the combined effects of lifestyle risk factors and multiple genetic risk factors on the risk of developing dementia. A separate study investigated the combined effects of lifestyle and genetic risk on the risk of having a stroke, among other cardiovascular diseases. The percentages of people at risk of having a stroke reported in this study were similar to the percentages reported in this study on the risk of developing dementia.
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