A landmark Scandinavian study has provided intriguing evidence that lifestyle changes can slow cognitive decline in older people at risk of Alzheimer's disease. The FINGER study (Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability) found that individuals who are at high risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia showed improvements in memory and other thinking skills after just two years of a a lifestyle change that included a healthier diet, increased exercise, increased intellectual and social stimulation, and better management of heart and vascular health The findings give the most compelling indication to date that we may be able to prevent Alzheimer's and other dementias by adopting healthier lifestyle habits.
Now, a new research project will test the same nonpharmacological interventions on a larger, more diverse U.S. population. Though very encouraging, the FINGER study was conducted among a relatively homogenous population. The U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) — led by the Alzheimer's Association® in collaboration with an international panel of researchers, including Miia Kivipelto, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of FINGER — will expand on lessons learned in Finland to test the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions in 2,000 Americans from a wide range of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. National partnerships are being developed with community-based organizations to deliver the exercise, nutrition, social and medical aspects of the intervention. Several Association chapters will help coordinate intervention delivery.
Positive results would provide evidence for behavior changes that could limit the devastating effects of dementia in diverse populations worldwide. This is critical in the absence of effective medications. With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's dementia today and more than 28 million baby boomers expected to develop Alzheimer's between now and 2050, finding nonpharmacological ways to reduce cognitive decline may be key to mitigating the symptoms of Alzheimer's and other dementias for millions of people.
We seek philanthropic partners to help us implement U.S. POINTER — the first study of its kind to be conducted among a large group of Americans across the nation. Lifestyle changes have helped drive down death rates from cancer, heart disease and other major diseases. U.S. POINTER could make an essential contribution to achieving the national goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's by 2025.