University of South Australia (UniSA) researchers are undertaking the study with financial support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Lead researcher of the UniSA project, Dr Ashleigh Smith, says that there is a plethora of research looking into individual lifestyle factors and how they can mitigate the risk of dementia, but knowing how factors work together to optimise dementia prevention is also extremely important.
The three-year study will focus on diet and activity of 450 aged people between 60 to 70 years of age.
Dr Smith says, “We are starting with two basic variables – diet and activity – and in adjusting those, we hope to learn more about which factors and combinations of factors will support the best outcomes for cognition.
“The ultimate goal of the study is to develop an evidence-based tool that people can use to target improvements in diet and activity, designed to underpin better brain health.”
Dr Smith believes how people use their time is an important factor in maintaining a healthy brain throughout life and keeping dementia at bay.
She hopes the research will mitigate the dementia rates that the United Nations Population Division predicts will double by 2050, to 2.1 billion people over 60 years old.
“There are just 24 hours in a day, but how you carve up that time can either increase or decrease your future dementia risk,” Dr Smith says.
“We are aiming to develop an easy-to-use app that will help people adjust their activities, give them the opportunity to choose to sleep a little longer, walk a little more often, spend less time on passive activities, or switch out less nutritious foods for options from a healthy Mediterranean diet.
“Interventions to stem the tide of dementia globally need to be affordable, practical and above all evidence-based and the goal of this work is to contribute directly to the knowledge we have about the impact of combinations of behaviours that may help to improve brain function and delay age-related cognitive decline.”
Four other universities will collaborate with UniSA on the project, including The University of Newcastle, Flinders University and The University of Adelaide.
The research will include specific and unique experts in the use of time epidemiology, cognitive assessment, diet, cerebrovascular assessment, neuro-imaging and non-invasive brain stimulation from Australia and the University of Illinois-Urban Champaign.