puzzle with missing piece--Alzheimer's Disease

A healthy lifestyle can go a long way to adding years to your life, but it might not help those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Those are the findings of a new study by Klodian Dhana, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago.

The study found that people at age 65 who had four out of five healthy lifestyle factors, which included diet, exercise, not smoking, and low alcohol consumption, lived longer than those who had none of the factors. Women added 3.1 years to their lives and men added 5.7 years. However, the researchers found those healthy lifestyles had little influence on Alzheimer’s patients.

“It might be plausible that lifestyle interventions could delay Alzheimer’s dementia to later ages, but the overall prevalence and years lived with the disease might not change or even increase,” Dhana said in the study. “If that is the case, health professionals, policy makers, and stakeholders should plan future healthcare costs and needs adequately.” 

The study examined more than 2,400 Chicago adults with a mean age of 76 recruited for the project between 1993 and 2009. It included more than 2,100 people free of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis at the study’s baseline and approximately 340 with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle was self-reported at the baseline, but was not updated later in the study.

Dhana noted that while a healthy lifestyle has been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, increased life expectancy raises the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. A recent study by the University of Michigan supported that. It analyzed Medicare data between 2004 and 2017 and found that half of older U.S. adults had a diagnosis of Alzheimers or dementia two years before they died.