Lifestyle factors pose same risk of dementia as genetics: Study

Study finds "couch potatoes" have similar risk of developing dementia as adults with genetic predisposition to the disease.
By Amy Wallace  |  Jan. 10, 2017 at 1:27 PM
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HAMILTON, Ontario, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A new study shows that sedentary older adults with no genetic risk of developing dementia are at similar risk as adults genetically predisposed to the disease.

Roughly 47.5 million people have dementia worldwide and that number is projected to drastically increase to 115.4 million by 2050.

The research from McMaster University followed more than 1,600 Canadians over a five-year time period and found that while carriers of a variant of the apolipoprotein E are more likely to develop dementia, a sedentary lifestyle dramatically increases the risk in non-carriers.

"The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes," Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Given that most individuals are not at genetic risk, physical exercise may be an effective prevention strategy."

Researchers are working to identify and change lifestyle risk factors that can reduce the risk of dementia.

"Although age is an important marker for dementia, there is more and more research showing the link between genetic and lifestyle factors," Parminder Raina, professor in the Department of Health Evidence and Impact at McMaster University and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "This research shows that exercise can mitigate the risk of dementia for people without the variant of the apolipoprotein genotype. However, more research is needed to determine the implications from a public health perspective."

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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