A new study suggests that preventing Alzheimer’s disease could be as simple as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and keeping your mind engaged.
Women and men who live a healthy lifestyle live longer — and without Alzheimer’s or other dementias, according to studies.
Dr. Klodian Dhana, the lead researcher, stated, “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.” He is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago.
Although this study cannot prove that people who live a healthy lifestyle live longer and are less likely to develop dementia, Dhana believes biological reasons may play a role in the link between lifestyle and dementia and life expectancy.
Inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain can be reduced by eating a diet rich in minerals and vitamins (which can lead to cell and tissue breakdown). Physical activity has also been linked to lower blood pressure and diabetes, which could minimize the incidence of vascular dementia, according to him.
“Cognitive activities are linked to a slower rate of cognitive deterioration, supporting the cognitive reserve hypothesis,” Dhana said.
The study, which was published online on April 13 in the BMJ, gathered data from over 2,500 men and women aged 65 and older who did not have dementia. They were included in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.
Participants filled out diet and lifestyle questionnaires, and a healthy lifestyle score was produced based on a variety of factors.
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; engaging in mentally stimulating activities later in life; getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week; not smoking, and low to moderate alcohol consumption were all factors.
For those who maintained a healthy lifestyle, men had a life expectancy of 23.1 years and women had a life expectancy of 24.2 years at 65. The researchers discovered that those who lived a less healthy lifestyle lived 17.4 years longer than men and 21.1 years longer than women.
Healthy habits have been found to provide considerable benefits to brain health, according to the study.
Women who lived unhealthy lifestyles spent around 4.1 (19%) of their remaining years with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the research. Those who practiced four or five healthy habits lived 2.6 years (11 percent) longer on average.
Men who led a healthy lifestyle lived 1.4 years (6 percent) longer than those who had an unhealthy lifestyle lived 2.1 years (12 percent) longer with Alzheimer’s disease.
These differences were even more noticeable at 85 years old, according to the researchers.
“We believe that these findings will help health care providers better understand and communicate the impact of lifestyle factors on Alzheimer’s risk,” Dhana said.
Because the number of people living with dementia is likely to climb considerably in the future decades, finding ways to reduce the number of years people live with dementia while simultaneously prolonging their lives is crucial.
By 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is anticipated to quadruple, from around 57 million in 2019 to 152 million in 2050.
One of the study’s drawbacks is that participants self-reported their health behaviors. Participants may respond to what they perceive the researchers are looking for, which could contribute to bias.
Hwa Jung Choi, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, wrote an editorial to accompany the study findings.
“It’s critical to reduce the incidence and an overall number of people with dementia because dementia is a very expensive disease,” she said.
According to Choi, dementia sufferers’ care and treatment are costly to society as well as emotionally and financially draining on their families.
“The good news is that leading a healthy lifestyle can not only lengthen one’s life but also one’s life without dementia,” she explained.