Exeter, Great Britain—A healthy lifestyle may help offset genetic risk for dementia, according to a study from researchers at the University of Exeter,published in JAMA.

The researchers analyzed data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older from UK Biobank. They identified 1,769 cases of dementia over a follow-up period of eight years. With the help of previously published data, they identified all known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and grouped participants based on high, intermediate, and low genetic risk for dementia.

Lifestyle was assessed based on self-reported diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption, and the researchers grouped participants again based on high, intermediate, and low adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

While a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced dementia risk across all groups, the researchers found that the risk of dementia was 32% lower in people with a high genetic risk if they followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who did not.

Dr. David Llewellyn, joint lead author from the University of Exeter Medical School and the Alan Turing Institute, said in a press release: “This research delivers a really important message that undermines a fatalistic view of dementia. Some people believe it’s inevitable they’ll develop dementia because of their genetics. However, it appears that you may be able to substantially reduce your dementia risk by living a healthy lifestyle.”

The press release noted that the study was led by the University of Exeter, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and the University of South Australia.