Study Finds Lifestyle Intervention Delays Cognitive Decline

by Marissa Steingold




The Science
In the 2016 Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (the “FINGER” trial), a sub-set of 1200 non-demented seniors aged 60-77 with a family history of dementia were given nutritional guidance, exercise, cognitive training, increased social activity and regular monitoring and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors for a period of two years.[1] At the conclusion of the study, those seniors enjoyed improved cognitive function and a lowered dementia risk as compared to the control group.

Expert Insight
This is the first long term, randomized controlled trial to demonstrate that lifestyle intervention can prevent cognitive decline. According to Miia Kivipelto, lead researcher, the “why” is still unclear. She explains one working theory: “There’s evidence that inflammation may be one of the early pathological mechanisms in Alzheimer’s, so reducing it is important.”[2] This may be why seniors in the FINGER study flourished on the “healthy Nordic diet” rich in anti-inflammatory fish, oil and nuts.

The Bottom line
FINGER gives us a prescription for stopping dementia before it starts, by exercising, eating right, visiting the doctor, spending time with others and stimulating our brains—the very same activities that also help us live longer and happier. 

Related studies are now underway. In another randomized control trial known as MIND-AD, the FINGER protocol is being used to test whether intervention is beneficial for European seniors with mild Alzheimer’s. Here in the United States, POINTER (Alzheimer’s Organization U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health and Reduce Risk Through Lifestyle Intervention) will supersize the FINGER trials on a larger and more diverse group of Americans. To learn about participating in the POINTER study yourself, read more on the Alzheimer’s Association Website:

Kivipelto, Miia; Ngandu, Tia (2016). “From Heart Health to Brain Health: Legacy of the North Karelia Project for Dementia Research.” Global Heart, Vol 11, No. 2, 235-242.

[2]Qtd. in “Inside the FINGER Study: Hard Evidence Shows How Diet, Exercise and Mind Games Might Make or Break a Dementia Diagnosis.” Being Patient.  10/11/2017,