Older individuals are at higher risk of developing dementia than their younger counterparts but they may be able to reduce those risks by staying active, eating healthily and training their brains, a study has found.

Published in the journal The Lancet, the study involved researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, University of Eastern Finland and Helsinki's National Institute for Health and Welfare. Led by Miia Kivipelto, the researchers carried out the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study to determine how comprehensive intervention geared towards addressing important risk factors for dementia associated with age will have an effect on brain function.

The FINGER study had 1,260 participants, all from Finland and between the ages of 60 and 77. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to be part of the intervention group while the other half became the control group, which were only given health advice regularly. All of the participants in the study have been assessed using standardized test scores and have been tagged to have risk of developing dementia.

The comprehensive intervention included regular meetings with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals for two years, with participants receiving thorough advice on eating healthily, muscular and cardiovascular exercises, brain-training activities and managing vascular and metabolic risk factors via regular blood tests and others.

After the intervention, mental function in the participants were rated using the Neuropsychological Test Battery, a standard test, where the higher the score the better the mental function of an individual. According to results, those in the intervention group logged 25 percent higher scores than those in the control group.

Additionally, some parts of the test showed more dramatic differences in scores, like the intervention group scoring 83 percent higher for executive functioning and 150 percent higher in processing speed. Pre-specified analysis also revealed that intervention didn't affect memory but post-hoc assessments found a difference in scores for memory between participants from the two groups.

According to Kivipelto, previous studies have explored the relationship between cognitive decline and factors like fitness, heart health and diet in older people but this is the first to show that comprehensive intervention that address risks factors may aid in preventing cognitive decline in elderly at risk of dementia.

A follow-up period of at least seven years has been set to check if reductions in cognitive decline will also reduce Alzheimer's and dementia cases in the participants from the intervention group.

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