Big news! Jianping Jia’s team from Xuanwu Hospital published a paper in the top international journal BMJ, which found a way to retain old people’s memory and restore brain vitality

On January 2023, Jia Jianping’s team from Xuanwu Hospital published an online paper entitled”Association between healthy lifestyle and memory decline in older adults: 10 year, population based, prospective cohort study” in the BMJ. They found that six life factors were highly correlated with delayed memory decline, and conducted comprehensive evaluation of memory and life factors, developed a comprehensive detection of comorbidity, risk factors and brain health screening scale, found out the effective plan to protect the memory of the elderly, and created a new mode of realizing the elderly brain health. The journal BMJ wrote a large editorial on the paper, gave high praise to it, affirmed the importance of the results of this study, and believes that it provides strong evidence for the influence of healthy lifestyle on memory in the elderly.

Water, air and nutrition are necessary to sustain life, and memory is the soul of life, throughout life. Only by maintaining a normal memory can life be of value. Many factors affect memory, such as age, lifestyle and genetic predisposition, but how to find the specific factors related to memory and how to improve it remains one of the most challenging scientific problems.

In a 10-year cohort study, Jia’s team found that if middle-aged and older adults adhered to the seven recommended diets, ≥150 minutes of moderate-intensity or ≥75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, engaged in social activities ≥ twice a week, read, think and write ≥ twice a week, and controlled alcohol and tobacco, they will increased memory score per year (0.028, calculated to obtain the score of expressed memory), and significantly reduced the incidence of dementia compared with people who could not adhere to these healthy lifestyles (Figure 1) . This provides strong evidence that memory recovery and dementia prevention can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle. This approach can be summed up as “Keep your mouth shut, keep your legs open, use your head more often, socialize more, and remember better”. This is a non-drug treatment that is visible, tangible, accessible, and accessible to the general public.

Age-related memory decline in middle-aged and older adults is not necessarily a precursor to dementia,and may simply be a general form of benign forgetfulness that can be reversed or kept stable rather than progressing to a dementia state. Therefore, the study calls for the general public to take this approach and work together to prevent and slow age-related memory decline and prevent it from developing into dementia.

Figure 1. Influence of different healthy lifestyles on memory in cognitively normal people
The changes in memory were expressed by the average score, and the memory scores showed more healthy lifestyle group (favourable, 4-6 items) were significantly higher than less healthy lifestyle groups (average, 2-3 items; Unfavourable, 0-1).

The study also found that APOE epsilon 4 is an important genetic risk gene affecting memory, and 270 million people in China carry APOE epsilon 4 gene, which is potentially harmful to memory decline. Therefore, genetic factors should also be taken into account when protecting memory in the elderly. This study analyzed the effect of a healthy lifestyle on APOE epsilon 4 carriers and found that it also effectively protected memory, suggesting that a healthy lifestyle could counteract the risk of APOE epsilon 4 (Figure 2). The study’s methods apply not only to older adults, but also to young adults who carry the gene. Therefore, improving the awareness of healthy lifestyle of the population earlier will have a significant impact on our national economy and people’s brain health.

Figure 2. Influence of different healthy lifestyles on the memory of APOEε4 carriers and non-carriers in cognitively normal population
The changes in memory were represented by average scores. The APOEε4 carriers and non-carriers had the same effect, and the memory scores showed more healthy lifestyle group (favourable, 4-6 items) were significantly higher than less healthy lifestyle groups (average, 2-3 items; Unfavourable, 0-1).

This is the first article of a large-sample, long-cycle study on the memory of the elderly in China. It is the first time to comprehensively evaluate multiple life factors related to memory and their impacts, which provides a strong scientific basis for delaying memory decline in the elderly. It also provides important data support for the formulation and implementation of global public health policies to protect the elderly from memory decline.

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