Five Healthy Lifestyle Choices Tied to Dramatic Cut in Dementia Risk

Combining four of five healthy lifestyle choices has been linked to up to a 60% reduced risk for Alzheimer dementia in new research that strengthens ties between healthy behaviors and lower dementia risk.(Neurology. Published online June 17, 2020. Abstract)

To help quantify the impact of a healthy life on risk for Alzheimer dementia, Dhana and colleagues reviewed data from two longitudinal study populations: the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), with 1845 participants; and the Memory and Aging Project (MAP), with 920 participants.

They defined a healthy lifestyle score on the basis of the following factors: not smoking; engaging in ≥150 min/wk of physical exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity; light to moderate alcohol consumption (between 1 and <15 g/day for women and between 1 and <30 g/day for men); consuming a high-quality Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet (upper 40%); and engaging in late-life cognitive activities (upper 40%). The overall score ranged from 0 to 5.

At baseline, the mean age of participants was 73.2 years in the CHAP study and 81.1 years in the MAP study; 62.4% of the CHAP participants and 75.2% of the MAP participants were women.

During a median follow-up of 5.8 years in CHAP and 6.0 years in MAP, a total of 379 and 229 participants, respectively, developed Alzheimer dementia. Rates of dementia decreased with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Compared to individuals with a healthy lifestyle score of 0 to 1, the risk was 37% lower (pooled HR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.47 - 0.84) for those with two or three healthy lifestyle factors and 60% lower (pooled HR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.28 - 0.56) for those with four or five healthy lifestyle factors.

This analysis is further demonstration that a healthy lifestyle is essential to overcome or curb the risk for Alzheimer disease.