Five health behaviors – regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a low body weight, eating a healthy diet and refraining from excessive alcohol intake – are integral to staying healthy in body and mind.

A new research study showed people who consistently followed four or five of these behaviors experienced a 60 percent decline in dementia and cognitive decline, with exercise being the strongest mitigating factor. They also experienced 70 percent fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared with people who followed none.

“We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia,” said Doug Brown, Ph.D., director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society in London, England.

The research was conducted by investigators at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.

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