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Published on: May 31, 2013
by Debbie Nicholson for Examiner.com:
Just one healthy behavior reduces memory problems by 21%.
Previous research has shown that healthy behaviors, such as regular physical exercise, a nutritious diet, and not smoking, are associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. However, less is known about the potential link between healthy behaviors and mild memory symptoms that may precede dementia in different age groups, according to the study’s abstract.
Researchers from UCLA investigated the effects of lifestyle choices throughout adult life.
For this new study UCLA researchers collaborated with the Gallup organization collaborated on a nationwide poll (December 2011 and January 2012).
A daily telephone survey (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index) of US residents yielded a random sample of 18,552 respondents ranging in age from 18 to 99 years, including 4,423 younger (age 18–39 years), 6,356 middle-aged (40–59 years), and 7,773 older (60–99 years) adults. The questionnaire included demographic information and the Healthy Behavior Index (questions on smoking, eating habits, and frequency of exercise). General linear models and logistic regressions were used in the analysis.
Not surprising the results showed that healthy eating, exercising and not smoking were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few unsuspected findings.
Older adults (60 – 99) were more likely to report healthy behaviors than were middle-aged (40 – 59) and younger adults (18 – 39), which is opposite of the perceived idea that aging means dependence and decline. Higher than anticipated memory complaints came from younger adults.
The study also revealed participants across all ages who participated in one healthy behavior were 21% less likely to report memory problems compared to those who did not follow any healthy behaviors. Participants with two healthy behaviors were 45% less likely to report memory problems , those with three healthy behaviors were 75% less likely to report memory problems and those who had more than three healthy behaviors showed 111% less likely to report memory problems.
Among the participants only 12% of older adults smoked in comparison to 24% middle-aged and 25% young adults.
A higher percentage of older adults reported eating healthy the day before being interviewed (80 percent) and eating five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables during the previous week (64 percent).
Memory issues were reported in 26% of older adults and 22% in middle ages participants, researchers were surprised to find that 14% of younger adults also reported memory problems.
The researchers believe older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. Or there simply could be fewer older adults with bad habits, since they may not live as long.
Dr. Gary Small MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Founding Director of the UCLA Memory Clinic, Director of the UCLA Center on Aging and study’s first author commented “These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health, including memory, by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life.”
Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil, PhD, Professor of Social Welfare, Professor of Public Policy, Director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging and senior author stated “We found that the more healthy lifestyle behaviors were practiced, the less likely one was to complain about memory issues.”
An intriguing fact on the poll was hat healthy behaviors were more common among older adults (755) than the other two age groups (61% middle-aged participants and 58% younger participants).
According to the researchers, older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. Or there simply could be fewer older adults with bad habits, since they may not live as long.
Dr. Small remarked that, generally, memory issues in younger people may be different from those that plague older generations. Stress may play more of a role. He also noted that the ubiquity of technology, including the Internet, texting and wireless devices that can result in constant multi-tasking, especially with younger people may impact attention span, making it harder to focus and remember.
Dr. Small also noted that further study and polling may help tease out such memory-complaint differences. He says that either way the survey reinforces the importance, for all ages, of adopting a healthy lifestyle to help limit and forestall age-related cognitive decline and neurodegeneration.
This study appears in the June issue of International Psychogeriatrics.
Picture Source: Getty Images
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