While medical experts have not been successful in discovering a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, recently released research supports the long-held belief that lifestyle choices play a pivotal role in reducing risks.
The latest data is drawn from two longitudinal studies—the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and the Memory and Aging Project (MAP)—funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The combined data pool included nearly 3,000 participants.
Researchers scored each participant on five healthy lifestyle factors, including:
1. Physical activity.
At least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise each week.
2. Not smoking.
No nicotine inhaled or chewed via cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, chewing tobacco, snuff, or e-cigarettes.
3. Light to moderate alcohol consumption.
Recommended limits vary between men and women, by age, and depending on potential drug interactions.
4. A healthy diet.
Either a Mediterranean-style diet with approaches to stop hypertension or a diet focusing on plant-based foods.
5. Mentally stimulating activities.
Keeping your mind active by engaging in late-life cognitive activities.
After scoring each participant, the researchers compared the lifestyle scores with clinical diagnosis outcomes of Alzheimer’s disease.
The participants that were engaged in four or five healthy lifestyle factors showed a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, compared to a 37% risk reduction for participants who only engaged in two or three healthy lifestyle factors.
Embracing multiple lifestyle factors could be crucial. The program’s director stated, “It’s not a clear cause and effect result, but a strong finding because of the dual data sets and combination of modifiable lifestyle factors that appear to lead to risk reduction.”
Plus, the benefits of positive lifestyle activities extend beyond preventing cognitive decline, with numerous improvements on other dimensions of physical and mental health.
To learn more about the CHAP- and MAP-based research, consult the National Institutes of Health (NIH) press release.