Study: Healthy Lifestyle Linked to Better Cognition for Older Adults, Regardless of Genetic Risk


The study authors sought to evaluate whether the link between lifestyle and cognition varies by APOE genotype among the elderly.

A study of adults 80 years and older indicates that a healthier lifestyle may help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment regardless of whether a person carries a particular form of the gene APOE, according to a study by PLOS Medicine.1

The study authors sought to evaluate whether the link between lifestyle and cognition varies by APOE genotype among the elderly. Previous research has linked both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease, but it has been unclear whether the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are affected by APOE ε4, specifically for adults 80 years of age and older.1,2

The study analyzed 6160 adults aged 80 years and older who had participated in a larger, ongoing study known as the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. Further, the research team statistically analyzed the data to investigate links between APOE ε4, lifestyle, and cognition, accounting for sociodemographics and other factors that could impact cognition.1,2

The findings showed that participants with healthy lifestyles or intermediately healthy lifestyles were less likely to have cognitive impairment than those with an unhealthy lifestyle (55% to 28%), respectively. Additionally, participants with APOE ε4 were 17% more likely to have cognitive impairment than those with other forms of APOE.1

Although prior research suggests that among individuals at low and intermediate genetic risk, favorable lifestyle profiles are related to a lower risk of dementia compared to unfavorable profiles; however, these associations were not found in those at high genetic risk. However, this investigation showed the link between lifestyle and cognitive impairment did not vary significantly based on APOE ε4 status, which represented the genetic dementia risk.1

The study authors said the findings suggest the benefits of a health lifestyle on cognitive outlook for the elderly population with a high genetic risk of cognitive impairment. Further research is needed to validate this conclusion among different populations, and the research could help inform efforts to improve cognitive function for the oldest of adults, according to the study authors.1,2


  • Healthy lifestyle linked to better cognition for oldest adults- regardless of genetic risk. EurekAlert! Published June 1, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021.
  • Jin X, He W, Zhang Y, et al. Association of APOE ε4 genotype and lifestyle with cognitive function among Chinese adults aged 80 years and older: A cross-sectional study. PLOS. June 1, 2021.
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