Data from nearly 3000 research participants found that combining more healthy lifestyle behaviors was associated with a substantially lower risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) in a recent study from the National Institute of Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the NIH press release, those who adhered to at least 4 or all of the 5 specified healthy behaviors were found to have a 60% lower risk of AD, with behaviors including physical activity, not smoking, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, a high-quality diet, and cognitive activities.

The research team reviewed data from 2 NIA-funded longitudinal study populations: the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and the Memory and Aging Project (MAP). The team selected participants from the studies who had data available on their diet, lifestyle factors, genetics, and clinical assessments for AD. The resulting pool included 1845 participants from CHAP and 920 from MAP.

The participants were scored based on the 5 healthy lifestyle factors (physical activity, not smoking, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, a high-quality diet, and cognitive activities), which were then compared with the outcomes of clinical diagnosis of AD in the CHAP and MAP participants. Compared with participants with no or 1 healthy lifestyle factors, the risk of AD was 37% lower in those with 2 to 3, and 60% lower in those with 4 to 5 healthy lifestyle factors.

“This population-based study helps paint the picture of how multiple factors are likely playing parts in Alzheimer’s disease risk,” said Dallas Anderson, PhD, program director in the Division of Neuroscience at NIA, in a press release. “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.”

The NIA is currently funding more than 230 active clinical trials on AD and related dementias. Of those, more than 100 are nondrug interventions, such as exercise, diet, cognitive training, sleep, or combination therapies.

Combination of healthy lifestyle traits may substantially reduce Alzheimer. NIH. Published June 17, 2020. Accessed June 19, 2020.