A large-scale study aims to discover whether lifestyle changes including an increase in physical activity, socialization, cognitive training and healthy diet can prevent dementia. There has been no drug proven to protect brain health, and researchers are excited about the possibility of finding a different preventative option for those at risk for dementia.
The trial is called the U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER). It aims to enroll 2,000 people and will take place over two years in five major locations throughout the U.S., including Chicagoland.
The results of a similar study conducted in Finland in 2014 showed that lifestyle changes could make a big impact on brain health. One of the co-Principal Investigators of the U.S. POINTER study, Dr. Christy Tangney, professor with the Departments of Clinical Nutrition and Preventive Medicine with Rush University Medical Center, states that the Finland study was a “trial where diet, exercise, social engagement, and health monitoring all appeared to protect brain health.”
That’s great news for those who have been searching for a way to reduce the risk or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Investigators are hoping to build on those positive results in the similar U.S. POINTER study.
Researchers are enrolling men and women, including up to 30% individuals of color, so that the participants represent the American population. “We want to make sure that in the end, the results apply to everyone,” states Dr. Darren Gitelman, Director of Cognitive Disorders at Advocate Medical Group and Senior Medical Director with Advocate Medical Center. Dr. Gitelman is also a co-Principal Investigator for the U.S. POINTER study. He states that he is excited about the idea of improving people’s health while preventing or reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia through lifestyle changes.
Benefits of participating in the study include:
- Professional guidance on eating healthy and increasing physical activity.
- Tools and connections to continue lifestyle changes even after the study has ended.
- Benefiting future generations on how to maintain brain health.
It is known that lifestyle changes improve cardiovascular and physical health. The big question this trial attempts to answer is – can they also improve brain health?
Researchers are optimistic that this study may do what medications have not been able to do so far, which is offer hope for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
In the Chicagoland area, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter is partnering with Rush Medical Center and Advocate Health Care to facilitate this new trial. Study groups that will start in the next few months in Chicagoland include Lake Zurich/Barrington, Naperville/Aurora, and Chicago/West Pullman.
Criteria to qualify for the study include:
- Between the ages of 60-79.
- Interested in changing lifestyle habits like activity level and diet.
- Risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or family history of dementia.
- Live in the geographic areas where the study will take place.
If you meet the criteria above, you may be able to participate and contribute to our understanding of how to prevent dementia. To learn more and be contacted for a screening, please visit:
Rush.edu/pointer or https://www.advocatehealth.com/health-services/advocate-memory-center/research-trials/
Contributor: Ellen Grover, Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer