New research suggests healthy lifestyles may help prevent dementia by building resilience against changes in the aging brain. A study examined 586 people’s lifestyles, mental function, and brain autopsies after death. While unhealthy brain changes were seen, those with healthier lifestyles maintained better mental function. This suggests healthy living provides a “cognitive reserve” that buffers the brain.
The study found small effects related to lower amyloid plaques. But most links between lifestyle and mental scores were independent of brain abnormalities detected after death. This further indicates lifestyle’s protective effects. As we age, healthy nutrition, exercise, avoiding smoking and heavy drinking may allow us to “cheat biology” and function at higher levels cognitively. It’s likely never too late to start improving lifestyle, even for frail elderly. The findings underscore healthy living’s importance in preventing dementia.