Taking exercise regularly is the most effective single lifestyle choice people can make to reduce their risk of having dementia, according to one of the most extensive studies yet into people’s long-term health outcomes.
The 35-year investigation, conducted by researchers at Cardiff University, found that consistently following just four out of five key behaviours could reduce dementia risk by 60 percent and cut the chance of heart disease and stroke by 70 percent.
Of the five behaviours – exercise, not smoking, having a low bodyweight, a healthy diet and low alcohol intake – exercise was found to be the most effective at improving long-term physical and mental health.
Though the five factors will be familiar to almost everyone, researchers said they were “really amazed” by quite how beneficial they had proved to be.
“What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health,” said principle investigator Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. “Healthy behaviours have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”
The study, the longest of its kind to probe the influence of environmental factors in chronic disease, followed the health outcomes of 2,235 Caerphilly men. It was also published in the journal PLOS One.
Professor Elwood said that, unfortunately, the evidence from the study was that very few men actually follow the kind of healthy lifestyle that can prove so beneficial, and that, while smoking rates had gone down since the study commenced, the number of people living completely healthily had remained unchanged.
Source: The Independent