Lifestyle change can prevent cognitive decline in APOE4 gene carriers

Lifestyle change can prevent cognitive decline in APOE4 gene carriers

A new study has found that having lifestyle counselling can prevent cognitive decline in those carrying the APOE4 gene, a common risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study from the University of Eastern Finland was published in JAMA Neurology and came from a two-year trial named FINGER, a multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training and vascular risk monitoring.

The participants, who were made up of 60-77-year-old people living in Finland with risk factors for memory disorders, were divided into two groups. One was given regular lifestyle counselling, while the other received enhanced lifestyle counselling.

What are the benefits of enhanced lifestyle counselling?

The enhanced lifestyle counselling involved nutrition counselling, cognitive and physical exercise, and support in managing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Earlier results from the FINGER trial showed that those who had regular lifestyle counselling had a significantly increased risk of cognitive and functional impairment compared to those who had received enhanced counselling.

Now researchers have analysed 1,109 patients, 362 of whom were carriers of the APOE4 gene, to see whether the gene affected intervention results.

Positive results for APOE4 gene carriers

The findings were promising, showing that those carrying the APOE4 gene had an even better response to the counselling than those without it.

The lead author on the study, Adjunct Professor Alina Solomon, said: “Many people worry that genetic risk factors or dementia may thwart potential benefits from healthy lifestyle changes.

“We were very happy to see that this was not the case in our intervention, which was started early before the onset of substantial cognitive impairment.”

What’s next for the FINGER trial?

FINGER has proven successful and, according to Professor Miia Kivipelto, the principal investigator: “The FINGER intervention model is now being adapted and tested globally in the World Wide FINGERS initiative.

“New clinical trials in diverse populations with a variety of geographical and cultural backgrounds will help us formulate global dementia prevention.”

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