Dementia is one of the most worrisome effects of growing older for both seniors and their loved ones. While scientists have discovered that some people are simply more likely to be struck with the condition due to their genetic makeup, lifestyle habits can contribute as well. As with most things in life, the more information that is available, the better decisions that can be made regarding your health.

Gene Mutation Can Increase Your Chances of Dementia

According to the National Institute on Aging, studies have confirmed that genetics play a key role in whether or not a person has dementia. A gene known as apolipoprotein E — or APOE — can have adverse effects if a particular form is found on chromosome 19. While there are different forms of APOE, only one –APOE ε4 — is believed to be the only one that has a negative effect on dementia. Not only does have this form of APOE increase the risk of dementia, but it is also more likely that a person will have an earlier onset of the disease. With the ability to have zero, one or two of APOE ε4 on their 19th chromosome, it has been found that the more APOE ε4 that are present, the risk of dementia increases.

The Effects of a Sedentary Life

In a case of the classic battle between nature and nurture, however, a study completed by a faculty member at McMaster University found that leading an inactive lifestyle could negate any benefits that having healthy genes affords people. According to Jennifer Heisz, who is an assistant professor at the University located in Hamilton, Ontario, more than 1,600 sedentary adults were studied to determine if there was a link between exercise and the development of dementia. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study — which spanned five years — found that those people who exercised on a regular basis had a lower chance of developing dementia.

Surprisingly Powerful

Given its many benefits, maybe the study’s findings on the benefits of exercise regarding it preventing dementia aren’t surprising. However, it’s not just this conclusion that is noteworthy. The study’s authors found that a lack of exercise can give its participants — who were all aged 65 and above — the same chances of developing dementia as those who have the APOE gene mutation noted above.

Takeaways You Can Use

Without undergoing testing that looks specifically at the chromosomes, it can be difficult to determine the chances that a particular individual has for developing dementia. It’s safe to assume, however, that staying active can only be a benefit — both in the short and long term. Taking a holistic approach to health that focuses firmly on the idea that a healthy and active body leads to a healthy and active mind could provide some safeguards against having dementia later on in life. For example, even older adults who lack lots of mobility can enjoy gentle exercises like chair yoga to stay active.