London: Including daily walks, healthy food, proper management of metabolic and vascular risk factors, slows mental decline in older people, says a new study.
The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), led by Professor Miia Kivipelto, assessed the effects on brain function of a comprehensive intervention aimed at addressing some of the most important risk factors for age-related dementia, such as high body-mass index and heart health.
The study involved 1260 people from across Finland deemed to be at risk of dementia, aged 60-77 years, with half randomly allocated to the intervention group, and half allocated to a control group, who received regular health advice only.
After two years, study participants' mental function was scored using the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB), where a higher score corresponds to better mental functioning. Overall test scores in the intervention group were 25 percent higher than in the control group. For some parts of the test, the difference between groups was even more striking-for executive functioning were 83 percent higher in the intervention group, and processing speed was 150 percent higher. Based on a pre-specified analysis, the intervention appeared to have no effect on patients' memory.
However, based on post-hoc analyses, there was a difference in memory scores between the intervention and control groups.
According to Professor Kivipelto, their study was the first large randomized controlled trial to show that an intensive programme aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who were at risk of dementia.
The study is published in The Lancet.