Keeping one's brain active, trying not to become depressed and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are the best ways to ward off developing dementia, a study of almost 1,500 volunteers has found.
If younger people were to follow such advice, millions worldwide could avoid or postpone the debilitating condition in old age, the research suggests. The combined effects would far outstrip the theoretical possibility of eliminating a gene known to increase the chance of dementia, according to the study, published today in the British Medical Journal.
Dr Karen Ritchie, a neuropsychologist at the French National Institute of Medical Research, led a team who assessed how the cognitive ability of 1,433 pensioners in Montpellier changed over a seven-year period. They asked them a series of questions about their lifestyle, medical history and educational background, as well as carrying out reading tests.
Their results indicate that how much intellectual exercise a person takes has an enormous effect on their likelihood of developing dementia. Those with lower reading scores were 18 per cent more likely to develop "mild cognitive impairment or dementia" – the former widely seen as a forerunner of the latter.