Baylor College of Medicine

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Baylor to study effects of lifestyle changes on brain health

Graciela Gutierrez

Houston, TX -

Baylor College of Medicine, in partnership with the Kelsey Research Foundation (KRF), will be one of five sites funded by the Alzheimer’s Association to conduct a landmark study of lifestyle change to protect against the development of memory and thinking problems in older adults.

The U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) is a two-year clinical trial to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions that target multiple risk factors protect cognitive function in older adults (age 60-79) at increased risk for cognitive decline. U.S. POINTER is the first such study to be conducted in a large, diverse group of Americans.

“We know that cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, and lack of physical activity may significantly increase the risk of dementia in older age,” said Dr. Valory Pavlik, associate professor of neurology and principal investigator of the study at the Baylor site. “There are several preliminary studies suggesting that changes to diet, exercise and mental activities can protect memory and other thinking skills, but the effects of these changes need to be tested in a large, controlled study.”

Baylor and KRF will work together to recruit 400 participants in the Harris County area over the next 18 months. Eligible volunteers will be assigned randomly to one of two lifestyle interventions, either a self-guided program or a structured program. Both programs encourage increased physical exercise, a healthier diet, cognitive and social stimulation and self-management of heart and vascular health. They also will receive regular monitoring of blood pressure and other health measurements.

“Currently available dementia therapies only treat the symptoms of the disease.  U.S. POINTER is testing an intervention that may help prevent or delay onset of cognitive problems in susceptible individuals. If effective, results could have an incredible impact on the health and quality of life of older individuals,” said Dr. Melissa Yu, associate professor of neurology and co-principal investigator at Baylor. “Another goal of our study is to enroll a diverse group of participants so our results are reflective of the general population.”  

“Kelsey Research Foundation is excited to partner with Baylor College of Medicine to bring this important and impactful study to the Houston community,” said Ashley Alexander, president and chief executive officer of KRF. “The collaborative study team is committed to delivering the study interventions throughout the greater Houston community with a goal of finding the best way to reduce the risk of memory problems in older age.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter, along with other community partners, will work with Baylor and KRF to coordinate intervention delivery.

“More than 400,000 people are living with Alzheimer's and all other dementia in Texas alone, so finding effective treatments and preventions is critically urgent," said Richard Elbein, Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter Executive. “The Alzheimer’s Association is determined to develop and deliver a more specific recipe for risk reduction of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia.”

You may be eligible for the U.S. POINTER study if you are 60-79 years old, currently do not have a memory problem, and do not regularly exercise. To learn more about the U.S. POINTER study, visit or call (713) 798-5452.

In U.S. POINTER, approximately 2,000 volunteer older adults who are at increased risk for dementia will be enrolled and followed for two years. The Alzheimer’s Association has been the driving force behind the national study, which it is funding with $35 million in grants. Other study sites include Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, the U.S. Coordinating Center; the University of California’s Davis School of Medicine; Rush University Medical College & Advocate Healthcare in Chicago; and Butler Hospital in collaboration with The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island.

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