Certain lifestyle habits may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 60% - here's what they are

By Helen Johnson
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 1:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 2:47 pm
A combination of different factors have been suggested to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (Photo: Shutterstock)
A combination of different factors have been suggested to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (Photo: Shutterstock)

A combination of different factors have been suggested to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

A mixture of different healthy lifestyle habits including not smoking, regular exercise and a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's, a new study has found.

‘Healthy behaviour’ types

Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center examined data on nearly 3,000 people from two longitudinal studies run by the National Institute for Aging.

The study found that people who stuck to four or five 'healthy behaviour' types had a 60 per cent lower chance of developing Alzheimer's.

The ‘healthy behaviour’ types included being physically active, not smoking, eating a high-quality diet, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and performing cognitive activities.

The research, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), also adds to existing evidence that lifestyle factors play a part in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's.

It was published in the 17 June 2020, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. said, ”The findings strengthen the association between healthy behaviors and lower risk,” explaining that they “add to the basis for controlled clinical trials to directly test the ability of interventions to slow or prevent development of Alzheimer's disease.”

What does each category mean?

Physical activity: At least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Not smoking: Established research has confirmed that even in people 60 or older who have been smoking for years, quitting will improve health.

Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption: Limiting use of alcohol may help cognitive health.

A high-quality diet: Combines the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension a focus on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention.

Engagement in late-life cognitive activities: Being intellectually engaged by keeping the mind active may benefit the brain.

How did the study work?

The research team also reviewed data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and the Memory and Aging Project (MAP) longitudinal studies.

They selected participants from those studies who had data available on their diet, lifestyle factors, genetics, and clinical assessments for Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers then scored each participant based on five healthy lifestyle factors, all of which have important health benefits.

This included undertaking at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, not smoking and light-to-moderate alcohol consumption.

Other factors that they were scored on included eating a high-quality Mediterranean diet and engagement in cognitive activities that keep the mind active.

Klodian Dhana, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the paper and assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center, said the combination of healthy lifestyle factors is key.

He explained that compared to participants with no or one healthy lifestyle factors, the risk of Alzheimer's was 37 per cent lower in those with two to three, and 60 per cent lower in those with four to five healthy factors.