A team of US researchers have found that those with better memory and thinking in later life are less likely to develop problems a decade later. The researchers published their findings today (Wednesday 22 July) in the scientific journal, Neurology.
The team looked at 100 volunteers who were over the age of 80 and had undertaken state-of-the-art PET brain scans. The volunteers also took memory and thinking tests at the start of the study.
The researchers followed the volunteers up over 10 years later.
The researchers found that people who had normal scores on the thinking and memory tests at the start of the study were less likely to develop problems at the end of the study. This was the case even if these individuals had a build-up of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid in their brains.
The team also found that people with a gene associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease had less amyloid build-up than people without the gene.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Although age is the largest risk factor for dementia, the condition is not an inevitable part of getting older. Age, genetics and lifestyle all play a role in our risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“While this study showed that a genetic factor was the best predictor of who would develop biological signs of Alzheimer’s, those who had better memory and thinking skills at the start of the study were least likely to experience cognitive decline.
“This research in the very oldest people highlights the importance of cognitive reserve, a type of resilience that allows people with Alzheimer’s processes underway in the brain to function for longer before showing dementia symptoms.
“While there’s no sure fire way to prevent dementia there are things we can do to look after our brain throughout life. These include not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, only drinking within recommended guidelines, eating a balanced diet, and staying both physically and mentally active.”