Summary: Getting the recommended amount of sleep, exercising daily, eating a healthy diet and giving up alcohol and tobacco are among seven identified lifestyle changes that people with diabetes should make to reduce their risk of developing dementia.
According to a study published in Neurology.
“Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic that affects one in 10 adults, and diabetes is known to increase the risk of developing dementia,” said study author Yingli Lu, MD, PhD, of Shanghai Jiao Tong University of Medicine in China.
“We investigated whether a broad combination of healthy lifestyle habits could offset this risk of dementia and found that people with diabetes who incorporated seven healthy lifestyle habits into their lives had a lower risk of dementia, than people with diabetes who do not lead healthy lives.’
For the study, researchers looked at a UK healthcare database and identified 167,946 people aged 60 or over with or without diabetes who did not have dementia at the start of the study. Participants completed health questionnaires, provided physical measurements, and gave blood samples.
For each participant, the researchers calculated a healthy lifestyle score from zero to seven, with one point for each of seven healthy habits.
Habits include not currently smoking, moderate alcohol consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men, regular weekly physical activity of at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and seven to nine hours of sleep daily.
Another factor is a healthy diet, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish and less refined grains, processed and unprocessed meat.
The latter habits were a less sedentary lifestyle, which was defined as watching less than four hours of television per day, and frequent social contact, which was defined as living with other people, getting together with friends or family at least once a month, and participating in social activities at least once a week or more often.
The researchers followed the participants for an average of 12 years. During that time, 4,351 people developed dementia. A total of 4% of people follow only zero to two of the healthy habits, 11% follow three, 22% follow four, 30% follow five, 24% follow six and 9% follow all seven.
People with diabetes who followed two or fewer of the seven healthy habits were four times more likely to develop dementia than people without diabetes who followed all seven healthy habits. People with diabetes who followed all the habits were 74% more likely to develop dementia than those without diabetes who followed all the habits.
Among people with diabetes who followed all habits, there were 21 cases of dementia per 7,474 person-years, or 0.28%. Person-years represent both the number of people in the study and the time each person spends in the study.
For people with diabetes who followed only two or fewer habits, there were 72 cases of dementia per 10,380 person-years, or 0.69%. After adjusting for factors such as age, education and ethnicity, people who followed all the habits had a 54% lower risk of dementia than those who followed two or fewer.
Each additional healthy habit people followed was associated with an 11% reduced risk of dementia. The relationship between the healthy lifestyle score and dementia risk was not affected by the medications people were taking or how well they controlled their blood sugar.
“Our research shows that for people with type 2 diabetes, the risk of dementia can be significantly reduced by leading a healthier lifestyle,” Lu said.
“Physicians and other health professionals who treat people with diabetes should recommend lifestyle changes to their patients. Such changes may not only improve overall health, but also contribute to preventing or delaying the onset of dementia in people with diabetes.
A limitation of the study is that people reported their lifestyle habits and may not have remembered all the details accurately. Changes in lifestyle over time are also not captured.
Financing: The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital of Shanghai Jiao Tong School of Medicine and other funding organizations.
About this diabetes and dementia research news
Author: Natalie Conrad
Contact: Natalie Conrad – ON
Image: Image is in the public domain
Original research: The findings will appear in Neurology