The FINGER study which came out of Sweden was a landmark study looking at reducing dementia risk by lifestyle changes. The randomized study was done over a two-year period with about 1200 individuals participating in the study.
The FINGER study found that making lifestyle changes, improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and mental activity can lower dementia risk.
The FINGER study focused on individuals over the age of 60 who were cognitively well. These individuals did not have dementia, though they may have had a minor cognitive impairment. While dementia risk was lowered, the individuals who were part of the increased mental activity saw improvements in processing speed and executive functioning. This study showed the positive effects of mental activity on improved brain health and mental acuity.
The interesting thing about these participants that set them apart from other studies was their relative youth (60 – 77 vs. 70 – 80+). In the MAPT study, which did not find the same improvements as the FINGER study, the participants were older. As well, one of the inclusion criteria for that study was frailty.
In the MAPT study individuals became participants through a health complaint. They had to have a reason for seeing the doctor. Once they were identified as having a health complaint they were put into the study. As well, the MAPT participants were older.
The research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is starting in the brain decades before symptoms exhibit in the individual. This poses the question of whether or not early intervention in the 30s, 40s and 50s with prevention strategies would have the best outcomes?
One of the conclusions that can be drawn from a comparison of these two studies is that