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Healthy lifestyle choices linked to fewer memory problems

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Lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is linked to positive lifestyle choices, according to a US study of more than 18,500 adults.

However, the association between healthy behaviours and lesser memory complaints remains unclear, particularly issues that arise earlier in life and could lead to further problems.

UCLA researchers and the Gallup organisation canvassed people between the ages of 18 and 99. The findings were published in the June issue of International Psychogeriatrics.

Participants were quizzed on their memory and healthy behaviours, such as whether they were a smoker, how active they were and how they ate.

People of all ages who followed a healthy diet, did not smoke and led an active lifestyle had better self-perceived memory abilities.

While memory problems were more likely in older volunteers, there were exceptions.

Healthy behaviours were found to be more common in people aged between 60 and 99 than any other age group, which appears to counter the theory that older people become less active. Additionally, researchers were surprised by the number of younger adults complaining about their memory.

“These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health - including memory - by practicing positive lifestyle behaviours earlier in life,” said the study’s lead author Dr Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

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