For those hoping to live a long and healthy life, there are certainly many healthy lifestyle choices to be made.
A recent study helped to clarify five specific healthy behaviours that are known to help people live a disease-free life and reduce the risk of developing dementia.
With more than 44 million people affected by dementia worldwide, this is a significant health problem that needs to be addressed.
The five healthy lifestyle choices or behaviours that were identified in the recent study conducted at the Cardiff University School of Medicine are regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting proper nutrition and keeping alcohol intake at a low to moderate level.
The study tracked more than 2200 men in Wales for 35 years, and discovered that those who consistently demonstrated the five healthy behaviours showed a 60% lower rate of dementia or other cognitive decline as they aged. Physical exercise was identified as the most important component of a healthy lifestyle.
Those same men who showed less cognitive decline also showed 70% less chance of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, compared with the rest of the subjects in the study.
A lifestyle that includes healthy choices consistently is an individual choice and personal responsibility.
Says principal researcher Peter Elwood, “Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, our findings reveal that while the number of people who smoke has gone down since the study started, the number of people leading a fully healthy lifestyle has not changed.”
It is estimated that less than 1% of the population of Wales follow all of the healthy lifestyle patterns as they are identified above. Approximately 5% of the population follows none of the recommendations.
Research suggests that if each of the subjects in the study followed only one more healthy lifestyle component from the list, there would be a nearly 15% reduction in the incidence of dementia, more than 10% reduction in diabetes, and 5% lower death rate—and that is if only half of those who began with the behaviour continued it for the duration of the 35-year study.
Elwood describes the significant correlation between healthy behaviours and overall good health and longevity, with dramatic differences in health and quality of life as people age. He states, “healthy behaviours have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”
Health researchers have long recognized that what is healthy for the body is also healthy for the mind, and have urged people to adopt healthy habits if they wish to remain disease free and age more slowly, while retaining cognitive function.
Dementia prevention is a priority as more people are living longer. It is hoped that the results of this study and others like it will encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing dementia, diabetes and heart disease.
Unhealthy habits account for the development of many diseases, and also account for a vast majority of health care spending and public health budgets. Taking steps to reduce the risks associated with an unhealthy lifestyle can have a profound impact on the entire global health care system.
Here are some ideas for making the healthy habits recommended by the Caerphilly Cohort Study a permanent part of your life:
Regular Exercise: Focus on being active for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. You don’t have to go to the gym or take a class. Go for a vigorous walk or play a game of tennis with a friend.
Stop Smoking: Craft a plan to quit and seek support. Surround yourself with nonsmokers who will encourage your healthy choices.
Healthy Body Weight: Talk to your doctor about what a healthy body weight would be for your body type. Create a plan to achieve your weight loss goals.
Healthy Diet: Cut the high-fat and sugary foods from your diet. Focus on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables; high-quality, low fat protein; whole grain carbohydrates; and enjoying sweets as an occasional treat.
Drink Alcohol Responsibly: Remove alcohol from your diet completely or only drink a small amount at special occasions.
SOURCES: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/articles/healthy-habits-reduce-dementia-risk-12191.html;https://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics; https://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/5-health-habits-reduce-risk-dementia-191300548.html;https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-25303707