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Mind & Mood
Living longer, without dementia
- By Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
A long-term study offers hope that a healthy lifestyle not only extends your life, but also extends the years that you’ll live free of dementia. The study, published online April 13, 2022, by BMJ, used data collected over 20 years on the cognitive health and lifestyle habits of almost 2,500 people ages 65 or older. Researchers came up with a healthy lifestyle score for participants based on five factors: eating a plant-based diet, doing activities that challenge the brain (like playing cards, doing crossword puzzles, or visiting museums), exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, not smoking, and drinking only in moderation (in this study, no more than one drink per day for women, two drinks for men). Women age 65 with four or five healthy lifestyle factors had a life expectancy of 24 more years, and lived three years longer than women with one or no healthy lifestyle factors. Men age 65 with four or five healthy life-style factors had a life expectancy of 23 more years, which was almost six years longer than men with one or no healthy lifestyle factors. Men and women with healthy lifestyles also cut in half the number of years living with Alzheimer’s disease, compared with men and women who didn’t have healthy lifestyles. The study was observational and doesn’t prove that healthy habits give you more years without dementia, but lots of other evidence suggests a healthy lifestyle increases life span and protects the brain.
Image: © kali9/Getty Images
About the Author
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
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