Research breakthrough: Lifestyle guidance prevents memory disorders 

The Finnish FINGER study showed for the first time that memory disorders can be prevented by controlling the associated risk factors. During the two-year study, controls had a 31 per cent greater risk of memory and other cognitive decline than those who received intensive lifestyle guidance.

A total of 1,260 elderly Finnish participants were randomly divided into two groups. One group was given standard lifestyle advice and the other intensive guidance including dietary instruction, exercise and memory training, as well as support in managing cardiovascular risk factors. The control group showed a significantly higher risk of memory and other cognitive decline than the intervention group. The participants viewed the lifestyle guidance in a highly positive light. 

Progressive memory disorders pose a growing challenge for public health and the economy as the population ages. Professor Miia Kivipelto, the Research Director running the study, hopes that the onset of such disorders can be postponed by 5–10 years through active lifestyle guidance. "It has been estimated that the incidence of memory disorders worldwide could even be halved by such an approach."

The intervention used in the FINGER study provides a model for the future prevention of memory disorders. "The prevention of memory disorders can now become a priority alongside the prevention of other chronic diseases," says Hilkka Soininen, Professor of Neurology at the University of Eastern Finland.

The FINGER study involves the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the universities of Eastern Finland, Helsinki and Oulu, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Text: Ulla Kaltiala Photo: Raija Törrönen