Co-principal investigator Laura Baker, Ph.D.
Four in 10 dementia cases worldwide are estimated to be potentially preventable by addressing lifestyle factors. What’s more, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests people can take positive steps now to protect their memory and thinking. Participants in FINGER (Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability) showed improvements in memory and other thinking skills after just two years of a lifestyle change that included a healthier diet, more exercise, increased intellectual and social stimulation, and better management of heart and vascular health. More recently the SPRINT MIND study showed that aggressive management of high blood pressure can reduce risk of mild cognitive impairment, a slight but measurable decline in cognitive abilities that increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association is leading a historic clinical trial to further test lifestyle interventions among a large group of Americans across the nation. The U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) is building on the last decade of scientific advances and expanding on lessons learned in FINGER. It is evaluating the effectiveness of combined risk reduction strategies in 2,000 Americans from a wide range of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds who are believed to be at increased risk of developing memory decline and dementia.
Study participants are being assigned randomly to either a self-guided lifestyle intervention group or a structured lifestyle intervention group. The two-year program for each group provides nutritional guidance, coaching for heart and vascular health, and opportunities for increased physical exercise and cognitive and social stimulation. Participants in both groups attend regular meetings with other participants to receive information about healthy lifestyle practices and strategies to adopt healthier habits. The nearest Alzheimer’s Association chapter assists with coordination of intervention delivery at five U.S. POINTER sites.
We seek philanthropic partners to help us ensure the success of U.S. POINTER — the largest study of its kind to be conducted in the United States. Lifestyle changes have helped drive down death rates from cancer, heart disease and other major diseases. By potentially setting the stage for development of our nation’s first accessible, scalable and sustainable program for reducing risk of cognitive decline, U.S. POINTER could make an essential contribution toward the national goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025.