Healthy lifestyle protects against Alzheimer’s

Those who do not smoke by the age of 65, drink little alcohol, eat healthily and are physically and mentally active have a good chance of living longer and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for significantly less time in the remaining years. This was the result of a study published in the specialist journal “BMJ”.

According to a new study, these five lifestyle factors reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and increase the chance of living longer:

  1. Do not smoke
  2. Drink little alcohol
  3. 150 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity per week
  4. Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and salad, berries, nuts, olive oil, wholemeal products, legumes, fish and poultry at most twice a week
  5. Regular mental activities, e.g. games, crossword puzzles, social contacts, going to concerts

Women aged 65 who followed four or all five factors had an additional average life expectancy of 24.2 years – 3.1 years more than women who had none or only one of these factors. Of the total life expectancy, the healthy and active women had dementia for an average of 2.6 years, while the unhealthy lived with the disease for 4.1 years.

Healthy, active men aged 65 lived an additional 23.1 years, 5.7 years longer than unhealthy men. Of these, those with a healthy lifestyle spent 1.4 years with dementia, while those with an unhealthy lifestyle spent 2.1 years.

A healthy and active lifestyle was not only associated with a longer life, but also with significantly more years remaining without Alzheimer’s dementia. Accordingly, longer life does not increase the risk of developing dementia. The disease is not simply postponed until later, but occurs less frequently or for a shorter period of time with healthy lifestyle habits despite longer life expectancy. This study underlines the importance of lifestyle habits not only for physical but also for mental health in old age, which is increasingly emerging from scientific research.

What: DOI 10.1136/bmj-2021-068390

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