By Isabella Colonna
For June we have selected Dhana K, Franco OH, Ritz EM, Ford CN, Desai P, Krueger KR, Holland TM, Dhana A, Liu X, Aggarwal NT, Evans DA, Rajan KB. Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy with and without Alzheimer’s dementia: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2022 Apr 13;377:e068390. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-068390. PMID: 35418416; PMCID: PMC9006322.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most frequent cause of dementia and represents a major public health challenge. It has been shown that adherence to a healthy lifestyle is related to reduced risk of developing AD but also to longer life expectancy. Therefore, it can be speculated that the modification of lifestyle habits may only delay the onset of the disease and not determine a reduction of the overall prevalence of AD, since the incidence of AD increases with aging.
In this population-based study, the authors aimed to investigate whether increased life expectancy determined by the adherence to a healthy lifestyle has an impact on the overall years lived with AD across the lifespan.
A total of 2449 individuals (women: n=1540; men: n=909) aged 65 years and older were recruited from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a population based cohort study performed in the United States with the aim of investigating the risk factors for AD in the general population. A health lifestyle score was composed on the base of five modifiable lifestyle factors: diet, late life cognitive activities, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. This score ranged from 0 to 5, with higher scores indicating a healthier lifestyle.
In this study, those aged 65 years or older presenting high health lifestyle scores, compared to individuals with low health lifestyle scores, presented longer life expectancy (women: 24.2 vs 21.1 years; men= 23.1 vs 17.4 years) and fewer years lived with AD (women=2.6 vs 4.1 years; men= 1.4 vs 2.1 years). These differences were even more pronounced in the subjects aged 85 years or older.
These findings suggest that the adoption of a healthy lifestyle is associated not only with greater life expectancy but also with fewer years lived with AD across the lifespan. Moreover, the life expectancy estimates presented in this study might help to better plan future healthcare services as well costs and needs.