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UCSF study shows adults can reduce Alzheimer's risks with lifestyle changes

UCSF study shows adults can reduce Alzheimer's risks with lifestyle changes
UCSF study shows adults can reduce Alzheimer's risks with lifestyle changes 01:51

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – At a conference Wednesday afternoon, a UCSF researcher presented the results of a two-year study that found strong evidence that the risk factors for dementia can be reduced  up to 30% with a modified lifestyle.

Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology, presented her findings from a two-year randomized pilot study of nearly 200 older adults at the annual Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease conference in San Francisco. 

She told KPIX 5 that it's still a complex puzzle as to why some people get Alzheimer's Disease and others don't. That's why her team of researchers joined forces with some colleagues at Kaiser Washington in Seattle and proceeded with the two-year study. 

For the trial, researchers enrolled older adults who had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Half were put into an intervention group, and the other half were designated as a control group. 

The control group got educational materials on risk factors for dementia. The intervention group got a coach who helped them identify what risk factors that they wanted to work on changing and helped them achieve their goals of modifying them. These risk factors included high blood pressure, diabetes, poor sleep, being socially isolated, and not being very physically active. 

At the end of the two-year study, the researchers compared how the participants did on cognition testing, personal satisfaction and quality of life. The tests showed that those who were in the intervention group reduced their risk up to 30% as they performed better on their cognitive tests. 

Dr. Yaffe is a physician and a believer in medication. That said, she told KPIX 5 even though there are promising drugs for Alzheimer's Disease in the pipeline, these drugs have modest benefits, have significant side effects and will probably be quite costly.

As more promising medications are developed and come to market, Yaffe recommends the public pay attention to their brain health. That includes keeping a healthy heart, diet, exercising and staying engaged with others. 

While these risk modifications are not foolproof, and some individuals will go on to develop dementia, it's a good investment to focus on your brain health.

"It's never too late to try and take care of lowering your risk of Alzheimers's and other dementias," said Yaffe. 

Additional information on the study can be found at the website for Dr. Yaffe's lab.

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