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Preventing dementia: Three glasses of Champagne 'could cut risk of developing Alzheimer's' - but why stop there

There are lots of things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting dementia

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Monday 09 November 2015 17:16

Excitement has bubbled over among Champagne fans online after reports emerged suggesting a few glasses a week could help prevent dementia.

The research to back up that assertion, carried out a couple of years ago at the University of Reading, found that rats who were fed small quantities of the sparkling wine performed better on simple memory tests.

We’re a long way from having doctors prescribe a glass of bubbly a day to keep Alzheimer’s away, although the university has told The Independent it is trying to track down the professor involved to see what progress he has made on human trials.

In the meantime, there are some tried and tested measures you can take to help cut your dementia risk – sadly, they involve putting away rather than reaching for the corkscrew.

Get into ‘brain training’

Playing online games which exercise reasoning and memory skills could have major benefits for older people, a wide-scale study by King’s College London has found.

Almost 7,000 people over the age of 50 were recruited from the public through the BBC, Alzheimer's Society and the Medical Research Council to take part in the six-month experiment.

Volunteers completed cognitive tests, including assessments of grammatical reasoning and memory, before the study began and again after six weeks, three months and six months.

Those over 60 also carried out tests of daily living skills, such as using the telephone or doing shopping.

After six months the over-60s who took part in the brain training were found to have significant improvements in carrying out daily tasks, while those over the age of 50 recorded better reasoning and verbal learning.

Regular exercise

Taking regular exercise is the most effective single lifestyle choice people can make to reduce their risk of dementia, according to one of the most extensive studies yet into people’s long-term health outcomes.

A -year investigation, carried out by researchers at Cardiff University, found that consistently following just four out of five key behaviours could reduce dementia risk by 60 per cent, while also cutting the chance of heart disease and stroke by 70 per cent.

The study, the longest of its kind to probe the influence of environmental factors in chronic disease, followed the health outcomes of 2,235 Caerphilly men. It was published in the journal PLOS One in late 2013.

Group singing

A US study has shown that singing in group music sessions significantly improves the cognitive abilities of moderate to severe dementia sufferers.

Working in a care home over a period of four months, scientists observed patients led through a series of familiar songs. Meeting three times a week, half the group were encouraged to take part in the singing while the other half just listened.

The difference between the two groups was stark, with the singing group scoring significantly better than the listeners in a range of tests, according to the US Society for Neuroscience.

The UK Alzheimer's Society says it regularly holds group singing sessions nationwide.

Vitamin E

A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that daily doses of vitamin E may help slow down the onset of dementia.

In a study of 613 people with mild or moderate symptoms of dementia, those who were given a large dose of vitamin E supplements each day experienced a slower decline in their condition than those who were given a placebo.

Overall, the authors estimated that cognitive decline was reduced by 19 per cent in the vitamin E group, who also required on average two hours less time with carers per day.

An all-round healthy lifestyle

The NHS says there is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia.

But a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk as you get older – as well as combatting lots of other diseases.

It’s not as exciting as champagne and singing, but to reduce your dementia risk the NHS recommends that you eat a healthy diet; maintain a healthy weight; don't drink too much alcohol; stop smoking (if you smoke) and make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

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