A new app could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research unveiled last week.

The Gray Matters app, developed by Ulster University in the UK and Utah State University in the US, encourages users to set lifestyle goals, ranging from exercise and nutrition to stress management and brain stimulation – all of which are known to have an impact on the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

People can use the app to track their lifestyle across a range of areas, including diet, physical activity, mental wellbeing and social engagement. It also provides visual progress reports to help users be more aware of their general health and encourage healthy behavioural change, as well as daily facts on the link between a healthy lifestyle and improved cognitive health.

“Making positive adjustments to lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and our research findings show that the Gray Matters app both educates and empowers users to make these changes,” says professor Chris Nugent, acting director of Ulster University’s Computer Science Research Institute.

“Ulster University is now working closely with Utah State University to identify partnerships to further enhance functionality and usage of the app before its launch to the general public.”

Professor Maria Norton, from from Utah State University’s Family, Consumer and Human Development Department, adds: “The primary outcomes of the Gray Matters study are increases in intrinsic motivation for, and actual achieved changes in, health-related behaviours, with accompanying reductions in subjective memory complaints.

“Secondary outcomes of interest are physical and cognitive health indicators including body mass index, blood pressure, blood-based biomarkers, and cognitive test scores.”

The research was unveiled at Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Washington DC, where Eli Lilly also revealed positive preliminary results for its dementia drug solanezumab.