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Healthy Living Tied to a Longer Life and Dementia-Free Old Age

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 23 April 2022
Healthy Living Tied to a Longer Life and Dementia-Free Old Age

A healthy diet, physical activity, and cognitive training help extend life expectancy — and those extra years are more likely to be dementia-free — new research suggests.

An analysis of nearly 2500 participants in the Chicago Health and Ageing Project (CHAP) showed those who had a healthy diet, got plenty of physical activity, and took part in cognitive exercises lived longer than those following a less healthy lifestyle.

In addition, the number of years living with dementia was almost halved among participants with the healthiest lifestyle versus those with the least healthy lifestyle.

The study was published in April in the British Medical Journal.

An Important Question

Past research has shown adhering to a healthy lifestyle may extend life expectancy, but older age is associated with a higher risk of dementia. What hasn't been clear is whether extending life just increases the number of years spent with dementia, the current investigators note.

The new study was created to address that question, they add. It used data from 2449 participants in a study that began in 1993 and assessed risk factors of Alzheimer's dementia in the general population.

Diet quality was determined using the Mediterranean-DASH Diet which is rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and berries, and low in fast/fried food and red meats. Cognitive activities were evaluated by reported participation in such tasks as reading, playing card games, and doing crossword puzzles.

Investigators also considered time spent in moderate or vigorous activities, including walking, gardening, bicycling, and swimming; and recorded smoking status and alcohol consumption.

Results showed life expectancy at age 65 was 24.2 years for women with the healthiest lifestyles and 21.1 years for those with the least healthy lifestyles. For men, life expectancy at age 65 was 23.1 and 17.4 years, respectively.

Extra years of life did not translate into more years living with dementia. The number of years living with dementia was 2.6 years for women with the healthiest lifestyle, versus 4.1 years for those with the least healthy lifestyle. For men, it was 1.4 years versus 2.1 years, respectively.

Overall, the results may help the communication between doctors and patients regarding lifestyle and dementia,

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsResourcesPrevention & RecoveryEvidence Based ResearchCancerWellbeingFood as Medicine

Associations

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia