Background: The number of people living with dementia is increasing worldwide, mainly because of aging of the population. To date, there is no pharmaceutical intervention to delay or treat cognitive decline or dementia. As an estimated one-third of dementia cases might be attributable to modifiable lifestyle factors (such as cognitive and physical activity), multidomain lifestyle interventions are a promising way to maintain or improve brain health. Offering programs online would enable large-scale implementation. An overview of multidomain Web-based lifestyle programs for brain health would facilitate comparison and improvement of such programs to develop effective and sustainable interventions.
Objective: This study aimed to (1) provide a comprehensive overview of Web-based multidomain lifestyle programs aimed at optimizing brain health in healthy adult populations and (2) describe the programs and targeted lifestyle factors, availability, and evaluation of adherence and user experience. In addition, a meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.
Methods: Electronic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO) were searched for Web-based lifestyle programs that were included when the program (1) aimed to optimize brain health, (2) focused on multiple lifestyle factors, (3) was completely Web-based (website, Web application or mobile app), (4) consisted of multiple sessions, and (5) focused on a healthy adult population. Program characteristics (target population, duration, frequency, tailoring, platform, and availability) and results of program evaluations (effectiveness, user evaluations, and adherence) were extracted and compared. Studies using a controlled design were included in a random-effects meta-analysis on the effectiveness on brain health outcomes. Study quality was assessed using the physiotherapy evidence database (PEDro) scale.
Results: The electronic searches yielded 44 documents describing 14 Web-based lifestyle programs; physical and cognitive activities were targeted in all programs. Four programs (4/14, 29%) were publicly available and free of charge, whereas others were restricted to research settings (5/14, 36%), available after payment (1/14, 7%), or not available at all (2/14, 14%). User evaluations were reported for 8 (57%) of the 14 programs. Reported dropout of the intervention groups ranged from 2% to 52%. Overall, 3 studies evaluated the effectiveness of a program using a controlled design and were included in the meta-analysis (moderate-to-high quality). Pooled results showed a significant small-to-medium effect of the Web-based multidomain lifestyle interventions on outcome measures for brain health (global cognition score, subjective cognitive score, and lifestyle risk score; standard mean difference=0.45; 95% CI 0.12-0.78), with a high degree heterogeneity across studies (I2=75%; P=.02).
Conclusions: In total, 14 Web-based multidomain lifestyle programs aimed at optimizing brain health were found. The programs showed heterogeneity in both characteristics and effectiveness evaluation. Despite this heterogeneity, this meta-analysis suggests that Web-based lifestyle programs can positively influence brain health outcomes and have the potential to contribute to the prevention of dementia.
Keywords: cognition; dementia; health promotion; healthy aging; internet; lifestyle; meta-analysis; primary prevention; telemedicine.
©Linda MP Wesselman, Astrid M Hooghiemstra, Linda J Schoonmade, Marjolein CJ de Wit, Wiesje M van der Flier, Sietske AM Sikkes. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health (http://mental.jmir.org), 09.04.2019.