Eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, and other lifestyle improvements could improve cognition in older adults experiencing cognitive decline, which is often a precursor to dementia, according to a new study.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 199 individuals age 65 and older were randomized to either a control group or an intervention group for 8 weeks. All of the participants were experiencing cognitive decline prior to the study.

Both groups received information related to dementia and lifestyle risk factors, Mediterranean diet, physical activity, and cognitive engagement. Only the intervention group received active components to assist with implementing this information into their lifestyles.

By using dietician sessions, an exercise physiologist session, and online brain training, researchers found that participants in the intervention group were able to improve their lifestyle and cognition scores over 6 months of follow-up. Notably, this group had higher cognition scores than those in the control group at the end of the follow-up period, suggesting the lifestyle-based changes may modify the course of cognitive decline.

“We’ve known for some time that lifestyle changes such as these can reduce dementia risk in the general population,” said lead author Mitchell McMaster, a PhD student, in a press release. “What this study adds is that with the right intervention, people experiencing cognitive decline may retain sufficient neuroplasticity for their brain to ‘bounce back’ from decline.”

REFERENCE
McMaster M, Kim S, Clare L, et al. Lifestyle Risk Factors and Cognitive Outcomes from the Multidomain Dementia Risk Reduction Randomized Controlled Trial, Body Brain Life for Cognitive Decline. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; September 9, 2020. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.16762. Accessed September 16, 2020.