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Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Date:8/11/2009

Older adults who ate healthy and remained active were protected, study finds

TUESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes and healthy fats, and increasing physical activity levels can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a new study shows.

The latest research, published in the Aug. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is more evidence that healthy living can help ward off cognitive decline.

Following both healthy habits is a plus, said study author Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "There is some evidence [already] that a healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet, may be protective for our risk of getting Alzheimer's disease," he said. "In the current study we wanted to see if there was an independent effect of physical activity and diet."

So Scarmeas and his team looked at 1,880 men and women without dementia living in New York, average age 77, and gave them tests every 1.5 years from 1992 through 2006, evaluating how well they followed a Mediterranean-type diet and their weekly participation in various physical activities. Those in the highest group got a median of 1.3 hours of vigorous activity or 2.4 hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week.

Scarmeas' team followed the elders for an average of 5.4 years, finding that 282 developed Alzheimer's disease during that time.

"There was an association between both a healthy diet and physical activity and reducing risk for Alzheimer's disease," Scarmeas said.

Those who ate well and exercised had a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared with those who didn't follow either good health habit, he said. "It's a very significant reduction," he added.

Exactly which components of the Mediterranean diet seem to c
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