Since recent figures have suggested dementia cases are set to treble from 44million to 135million by 2050, it is clear we must do our best to prevent the disease at least until a cure is found. Researchers from Cardiff University conducted a 35 year long study (the longest of its kind) to investigate the effect of a healthy lifestyle on the development of heart disease (which was particularly high in Caerphilly where the study took place) and later dementia and strokes.
The study began in 1979 and involved 2,235 men, aged between 25 and 49 years, from Caerphilly (north of Cardiff). The men’s behaviour in relation to their health was monitored. The researchers found 5 main factors that helped prevent disease developing; exercise, diet, low bodyweight, not smoking and low alcohol intake.
Out of the contributory factors exercise was found to have the greatest effect on dementia levels. Men who incorporated 4 of these factors into their lifestyle had a 60% decrease in developing dementia and other cognitive diseases, especially if they regularly exercised. These men also had a 70% less chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke compared to participants who followed none of these factors.
The study leader Professor Peter Elwood commented “healthy behaviour was far more beneficial than medical treatment or preventative procedure…[taking] simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an ageing population”.
The Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer’s Society and the British Heart Foundation all funded the successful study. In fact over 400 research papers have been published by the medical press from this study’s findings alone.
However disappointingly very few people follow a healthy and beneficial lifestyle, and whilst smoking rates have declined since the study began in 1979 the number of people leading a sedentary unhealthy lifestyle has remained the same to this day. Elwood stresses that “Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is the responsibility of the individual.”
I think we can conclude that exercise, a low fat diet, not smoking and consuming less alcohol is clearly going to benefit health. The key is being motivated to actually live a healthy lifestyle long term, in order to reap the rewards in later life by reducing your risk of developing multiple diseases including dementia (which currently effects 44 million people globally).
So what are you waiting for? Start your new healthy life today!