Healthy lifestyle traits may reduce Alzheimer's risk, study finds


Combining more healthy lifestyle behaviors was associated with substantially lower risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to new research published in the journal Neurology.

The observational study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, which included data from 3,000 research participants, found that those who percent adhered to four or all of five specified healthy behaviors were found to have a 60%  lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. The behaviors included physical activity, not smoking, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, a high-quality diet, and cognitive activities.

The research team reviewed data from two longitudinal study populations, Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and the Memory and Aging Project (MAP). They selected participants from those studies who had data available on their diet, lifestyle factors, genetics, and clinical assessments for Alzheimer's disease. The resulting data pool included 1,845 participants from CHAP and 920 from MAP.

The researchers scored each participant based on five healthy lifestyle factors, including:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity
  • Not smoking
  • Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption
  • A high-quality, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, which combines the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet
  • Engagement in late-life cognitive activities

The research team then compared the scores with outcomes of clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's in the CHAP and MAP participants. Compared to participants with no or one healthy lifestyle factors, the risk of Alzheimer's was 37 percent lower in those with two to three, and 60 percent lower in those with four to five healthy lifestyle factors, the researchers said.

The NIA is currently funding more than 230 active clinical trials on Alzheimer's and related dementias. Of those, more than 100 are nondrug interventions, such as exercise, diet, cognitive training, sleep, or combination therapies.