The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) revealed that daily walks and a healthy food with proper management of metabolic and vascular risk factors, slows mental decline in older people.
The study assessed the effects on brain function and understand some of the most important risk factors associated with age-related dementia, such as high body-mass index and heart health. It involved 1,260 old people (aged 60-77 years) from across Finland deemed to be at risk for dementia, with one half randomly allocated to the intervention group, and the other allocated to a control group that received regular health advice only.
Two years later, the study participants' mental function was scored using the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB), where a higher score corresponds to better mental functioning. It was seen that the overall test score in the intervention group was 25% higher than in the control group. For some parts of the test, the difference between the two groups was even more striking. Executive functioning was 83% higher and processing speed was 150% higher in the intervention group.
Prof Miia Kivipelto, author of the study, said "Our study is the first large randomized controlled trial to show that an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia."
The study has been published in The Lancet