Positive early habits can reduce cognitive decline

Early health habits linked to brain decline - Newsrell
Physical activity in young adulthood can help prevent cognitive decline later in live. | Photo: Skynesher (iStock)

New research has linked declining brain function in mid-life with poor habits and stress as a young adult.

A study report by the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) said previously medical conditions and habits that led to body inflammation in older adults had been linked to dementia.

This latest assessment traced cognitive decline to issues from much earlier in life.

Inflammation is associated with obesity, physical inactivity, chronic illness, stress and smoking.

“We know from long-term studies that brain changes leading to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may take decades to develop,” study author Amber Bahorik from the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences said.

“We wanted to see if health and lifestyle habits in early adulthood may play a part in cognitive skills in midlife, which in turn may influence the likelihood of dementia in later life.”

The study followed 2364 adults in the CARDIA study, which aims to identify the factors in young adulthood that lead to cardiovascular disease two-to-three decades later.

The research, published in Neurology this month, found that only 10 percent of those with low inflammation performed poorly on testing of processing speed and memory.

This compared with 21 percent and 19 percent respectively of those with either moderate or higher levels of inflammation.

“When researchers adjusted for factors like age, physical activity and total cholesterol, disparities remained in processing speed; and the researchers also found differences in executive functioning, which includes working memory, problem solving and impulse control,” the report on the UCSF website said.

“Fortunately, there are ways to reduce inflammation – such as by increasing physical activity and quitting smoking – that might be promising paths for prevention.”

The full report is on the UCSF website.