According to a new study, preventing Alzheimer’s disease may be as simple as eating a good diet, exercising regularly, and keeping your mind active.
According to studies, women and men who live a healthy lifestyle live longer — and without Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
“A healthy diet rich in vegetables, berries, whole grains, and low in fried or fast foods, as well as physical and cognitive activities like reading books, visiting museums, and solving crossword puzzles, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as people age,” said lead researcher Dr. Klodian Dhana. He works at the Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago as an assistant professor of internal medicine.
Although this study cannot establish that people who live a healthy lifestyle live longer and without dementia, Dhana believes biological factors may be at play in the link between lifestyle and dementia and life expectancy.
A diet rich in nutrients and vitamins has been found to minimize inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain (which can lead to cell and tissue breakdown). He also mentioned that physical activity has been related to decrease blood pressure and diabetes, which could reduce the risk of vascular dementia.
“Cognitive activities are related with a slower cognitive decline, which supports the cognitive reserve hypothesis,” Dhana stated.
Dhana’s team gathered data on over 2,500 men and women aged 65 and older without dementia for the study, which was published online April 13 in the BMJ. The Chicago Health and Aging Project included them.
Diet and lifestyle questionnaires were completed by the participants, and a healthy lifestyle score was calculated based on many parameters.
Following a Mediterranean-DASH diet, which is high in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and berries while low in fast food, fried food, and red meats; participating in mentally stimulating activities late in life; getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week; not smoking; and low to moderate alcohol use were among the factors.
At 65, men had a life expectancy of 23.1 years and women had a life expectancy of 24.2 years for those who lived a healthy lifestyle. The researchers discovered that people who led a less healthier lifestyle had a life expectancy of 17.4 years for males and 21.1 years for women.
The study discovered that healthy practices have significant benefits for brain health.
According to the findings, women who led unhealthy lifestyles spent about 4.1 (19%) of their remaining years with Alzheimer’s disease. Those who followed four or five healthy habits lived an average of 2.6 years (11 percent) longer.
Men who lived a good lifestyle lived 1.4 years (6 percent) longer with Alzheimer’s disease than those who had an unhealthy lifestyle lived 2.1 years (12 percent) longer.
The researchers found that these disparities were considerably more evident at 85 years old.
“We hope these findings will benefit health practitioners in better understanding and communicating the importance of lifestyle factors in Alzheimer’s risk,” Dhana added.
Finding solutions to cut the number of years individuals live with dementia while also extending their lives is critical as the number of people living with dementia is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades.
Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias are expected to triple in number worldwide by 2050, from roughly 57 million in 2019 to 152 million in 2050.
The fact that individuals self-reported their health practices is one of the study’s limitations. This could lead to bias, with participants responding to what they believe the researchers are searching for.
An editorial accompanying the study findings was written by HwaJung Choi, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.
“Reducing the incidence and overall number of persons with dementia is really important because dementia is a very expensive disease,” she said.
Dementia sufferers’ care and treatment is costly to society, as well as emotionally and financially exhausting for their family, according to Choi.
“The good news is that living a healthy lifestyle can not only extend one’s life, but it can also extend one’s life without dementia,” she noted.