Lifestyle changes may combat dementia in younger people

Health

A new study has returned promising results in the battle against a specific type of dementia. It indicates that lifestyle changes could play a major role in combating the disease.

Frontotemporal dementia — or FTD — typically strikes early, affecting people in their 40s and 50s. And this form of the disease doesn’t affect memory — It attacks the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes, which control thinking, reasoning and emotion.

Those affected may ignore other people’s feelings, get uncharacteristically frustrated, or say or do inappropriate things.

But research conducted at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California San Francisco indicates lifestyle changes may be key to slowing the disease’s progression.

Research participants with the inherited form of the disease were mostly asymptomatic or displayed mild, early-stage symptoms of FTD. They were given MRIs at the beginning of the study, and annually for two years. Participants completed tests of thinking and memory, and their caregivers were asked to rate their cognitive and physical activity over the course of that time.

Results at the end showed that despite continued degeneration of brain tissue, people who scored in the top 25 percent of either mental or physical activity performed twice as well on cognitive tests as those in the bottom 5 percent of similar activity.

Researchers plan to provide participants with activity trackers to try to pinpoint which types of physical activity are the most beneficial.

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