Forbes (July 14, 2014): Hard Evidence We Can Slow Alzheimer's By Exercising The Body And The Mind

Publication Date: 
Mon, 07/14/2014

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most feared diagnoses among patients. It destroys people’s minds, their personalities, the very essence of who they are. And once the disease has been diagnosed, there is nothing modern medicine can do to stop it.

But it can be slowed, and a new study presented by researchers at the Karolinska Institut in Sweden gives some of the strongest evidence yet as to how: through physical exercise, through mental exercises and social interaction, by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and by monitoring the same risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease.

The bad news: Alzheimer’s, in people who develop it, is still inexorable. The good news: even for people late in life who are already at high risk for developing the disease can benefit from changing their lifestyle. Patients in this study were between 60 years and 77 years old.

“This is a very important message,” says Miia Kivipelto, the lead investigator of the study who presented the results at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s still possible to do something for your brain when you are 70 years old.”

The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (somehow abbreviated FINGER)  followed 1,260 patients in Finland who were at high risk of dementia and had cognitive performance that was either average for their age or worse for two years. They were randomly assigned into two groups. One, a control group, received the best medical advice available and regular cognitive testing. The other group got a battery of interventions.