Study shows lifestyle intervention provides cognitive benefits for people at risk of dementia

Massage Therapy Canada staff
July 16, 2014
By Massage Therapy Canada staff
July 16, 2014 – Positive results presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014 (AAIC 2014) in Copenhagen include data from a two-year clinical trial in Finland of a multi-component lifestyle intervention, known as the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER Study).
The study with 1,260 older adults at risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s showed that physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors improved cognitive performance, both overall and in separate measures of executive function, such as planning abilities, and the relationship between cognitive functions and physical movement.

“AAIC is the premiere Alzheimer’s and dementia research conference, and this year’s topics are exciting both in their scope and findings,” said Keith Fargo, Alzheimer’s Association director of scientific programs and outreach. “Regarding the FINGER Study, researchers have previously observed a number of modifiable factors associated with increased risk of late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, but short-term studies focusing on single, isolated risk factors have had modest results, at best. Longer, larger, better-controlled trials looking at modifying multiple risk factors – like the FINGER Study – have been needed. This new data is very encouraging, and we look forward to further studies to confirm and extend these findings.”

At AAIC 2014, Dr. Miia Kivipelto, professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland, and her colleagues reported on the results of the FINGER Study, a two-year randomized controlled trial of 1,260 participants age 60 to 77 with modifiable risk factors for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. Randomized controlled clinical trials are considered the “gold standard” for demonstrating treatment efficacy and safety.

Participants were divided into two groups; one received an intervention that included nutritional guidance, physical exercise, cognitive training, social activities, and management of heart health risk factors, while the control group received regular health advice. After two years, the intervention group performed significantly better on a comprehensive cognitive examination. In addition to performing better overall, the intervention group did significantly better on specific tests of memory, executive function (complex aspects of thought such as planning, judgment and problem-solving) and speed of cognitive processing.

“This is the first randomized control trial showing that it is possible to prevent cognitive decline using a multi-domain intervention among older at-risk individuals. These results highlight the value of addressing multiple risk factors in improving performance in several cognitive domains,” said Kivipelto. “Participants told us their experience was very positive, and dropout rate only 11 per cent after two years.”

The researchers say an extended, seven-year follow-up study is planned, and will include measures of dementia/Alzheimer’s incidence and biomarkers including brain imaging with MRI and PET.

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is the world’s largest gathering of leading researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.


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