September 29, 2022

Healthy Habits Tied to Longevity and Being Dementia-Free for Older Adults

Among men and women who reach 65 years of age, a healthy lifestyle leads to a longer life and living a greater proportion of that life Alzheimer dementia-free, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

Recent studies suggest following a healthy lifestyle considerably reduces the risk of Alzheimer dementia. The same healthy lifestyle can increase life expectancy. With increasing age comes the increasing risk for dementia. However, if the risk is attenuated by a healthy lifestyle, people may live longer, dementia free, or at least live longer before the onset of Alzheimer.

In the current study, researchers sought to determine the impact of lifestyles on life expectancy for women and men with and without Alzheimer dementia.


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The researchers conducted a prospective cohort study within the Chicago Health and Aging Project of 2449 participants (female 1540; 76.2±6.8 years of age; 57.4% Black or African American; 12.5±3.3 years of education; male 909: 75.8±6.7 years of age; 55.6% Black or African American; 12.6±4.1 years of education) among whom 2110 were without Alzheimer dementia at baseline and 339 with Alzheimer dementia. They derived lifestyle scores from assessing several factors, including a diet for brain health (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay—MIND diet score in upper 40% of cohort distribution); late life cognitive activities (composite score in upper 40%); moderate or vigorous physical activity (≥150 minutes/week); no smoking; and light to moderate alcohol consumption (women 1-15 grams/day; men 1-30 grams/day).”

Among women aged 65 years with 4 or 5 healthy factors, life expectancy was 24.2 years (95% CI, 22.8 – 25.5), and they could expect to outlive women aged 65 years with 0 or 1 healthy factors by 3.1 years whose life expectancy was 21.1 years (95% CI, 19.5 – 22.4). Women with 4 or 5 healthy factors lived with Alzheimer for 2.6 years (10.8% of their remaining time) and women with 0 or 1 healthy factor lived with Alzheimer for 4.1 years (19.3% of their remaining time). Among women aged 65 years with 4 or 5 healthy factors and without Alzheimer dementia, life expectancy was 21.5 years, and in women with 0 or 1 healthy factor life expectancy was 17.0 years.

Among men aged 65 years with 4 or 5 healthy factors, life expectancy was 23.1 years (95% CI, 21.4 – 25.6) and they could expect to outlive men aged 65 years with 0 or 1 healthy factor by 5.7 years. Men with 4 or 5 healthy factors lived with Alzheimer for 1.4 years (6.1% of their remaining time) and men with 0 or 1 healthy factor lived with Alzheimer for 2.1 years (12.0% of their remaining time). Among men aged 65 years with 4 or 5 healthy factors and without Alzheimer dementia, life expectancy was 21.7 years, and in men with 0 or 1 healthy factor life expectancy was 15.3 years.

Study limitations included an adherence to lifestyle factors not updated at follow-ups; survival bias; self-assessment errors; population distribution not generalizable; and the observational nature of the study.

Researchers concluded that, “A healthy lifestyle was associated with a longer life expectancy among men and women, and they lived a larger proportion of their remaining years without Alzheimer’s dementia.”

These estimates could help planning for health care in the future.

Reference

Dhana K, Franco OH, Ritz EM, et al. Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy with and without Alzheimer’s dementia: Population based cohort study. BMJ. Published online April 13, 2022. doi:10.1136/bmj-2021-068390

Healthy Habits Tied to Longevity and Being Dementia-Free for Older Adults