David Llewellyn

Dementia isn’t inevitable for adults at high genetic risk for the condition, a new study says. In fact, healthy lifestyle choices may offset that inheritance.

People at risk for dementia were found to be 32% less likely to develop the condition if they followed four healthy practices: limiting alcohol use, avoiding cigarettes, maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active. In contrast, those who did not practice these behaviors were three times more likely to develop cognitive impairment.

The research undermines a fatalistic view of dementia, said the study’s co-lead author David Llewellyn, Ph.D. “Some people believe it’s inevitable they’ll develop dementia because of their genetics. However it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.”

The study analyzed data from nearly 200,000 adults of European ancestry, aged 60 and older, from UK Biobank. Participants’ health was followed for eight years.

The research was presented last week, during the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles.

Watch a video of Dr. Llewellyn speaking about the study.