High Five for Life is a project set up in memory of Axel Hallinder, who sadly passed away in March 2023. Axel was the son of a Helena Hallinder, a colleague in the Ageing Epidemiology Research Unit. As a research coordinator and occupational therapist, she has dedicated her career to brain health and dementia prevention research. 

Axel was a respected and well-liked young professional at StepStone Group, a U.S. financial services company with a substantial presence in London, where Axel was based. The team at StepStone is supporting and fundraising for the project in Axel’s memory. 

Brain health and the FINGER trial

Brain health and the importance of preserving your memory and function as you age is a growing health concern world-wide. More and more people are developing memory and functional problems as a result of dementia, a syndrome that is associated with progressive decline in brain function as you age.

It is expected that by 2050, there will be around 139 million people living with dementia globally. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia. Research indicates, however, that up to 40% of dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease, can be linked to 12 modifiable risk factors, which includes factors such as physical inactivity, obesity and high blood pressure at mid-life. Targeting these risk factors in early life can help to build healthier habits that can help maintain brain health and function in later life. 

The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability, or popularly known as the FINGER study is a randomized controlled trial designed to assess the impact of a multidomain lifestyle intervention on cognitive health in older adults at risk of cognitive decline. The trial aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a lifestyle-based intervention in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.  The research team combined five distinct modifiable risk factors, symbolized as the "five fingers," each backed by compelling evidence: 1) maintaining a healthy diet, 2) engaging in physical activity, 3) fostering cognitive stimulation, 4) participating in social activities, and 5) addressing vascular and metabolic risk factors. The principle of what benefits the heart also benefits the brain holds true. The FINGER trial stands as a pioneering accomplishment, providing the first global evidence that lifestyle modifications can proactively forestall memory-related issues and safeguard brain health. Additionally, it underscored the significance of a comprehensive healthy lifestyle approach in enhancing brain health. It stands as an endorsement that it is never too early and never too late to start activities to maintain your brain health. 

The Project “High Five for Life – In Memory of Axel Hallinder”

With over 10 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds, it’s evident that optimizing brain health through the life-course with the goal of preventing dementia is an urgent priority. The objective of the ‘High Five for Life – In Memory of Axel Hallinder’ project is to inspire younger adults to implement healthy lifestyle habits early on, in line with the FINGER-model, to support and boost brain health throughout their lives and preserve function as they age. 

However, there is a lack of brain health and dementia prevention initiatives in younger people. Through the partnership with StepStone and Imperial College London, ‘High Five for Life – In Memory of Axel Hallinder’ aims to initiate a research project to introduce the FINGER-model tailored for younger individuals to investigate attitudes towards and knowledge of brain health in people aged 18-25. We hope to invite students at Imperial College London to participate in this study. 

For more information on this project, please contact Dr Tindie Kalsi, AGE Research Unit Manager.
To support this work, please go to the fundraising page or contact Dr Pramod Puthumanapully, Head of Development (Faculty of Medicine).