Women Who are Active and Healthy in Middle Age Can Lower Risk of Dementia

A study into women who are active and healthy into middle age has revealed that maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can lower the risk of dementia.

The women’s study data included information about physical activity, diet, bodyweight, smoking status, blood pressure, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The study was published in the American Academy of Neurology.

Women were given a score of zero for poor or intermediate health and one point for ideal health for each of these factors, with a maximum possible score of 7. Health scores were on average 4.3 at the start of the study and 4.2 10 years later.

Having assigned the participants a score, the researchers cross-referenced their information with their healthcare records, to identify those who had been diagnosed with dementia. Of the participants, 1,771, or 13%, developed dementia.

After adjusting for factors like age and education, researchers found that the higher a woman’s score at the start of the study, the less likely she was to develop dementia twenty years later.

A limitation of the study was that researchers were unable to look at how lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, another known risk factor for dementia, influenced the risk later in life.

The preliminary study released today, February 27, 2023, will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th Annual Meeting being held in person in Boston and live online from April 22-27, 2023.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says:

“This large study adds to the overwhelming evidence that by being active and eating healthily in middle age, women can reduce their chances of dementia in later life.

“Dementia affects everyone, but women are far more likely to develop it than men, and it’s now the leading cause of death among British women.

“Whatever our gender, we can all take simple steps to reduce our risk of dementia. Beyond being active and looking after our heart, getting a good night’s sleep, challenging our brain and keeping connected to the people around us, can all help reduce our chances of developing dementia.

“We’d encourage anybody who would like to know more about their own brain healthy behaviours to complete Alzheimer’s Research UK’s online Think Brain Health Check-in.”