Seven healthy lifestyle habits linked to lower risk of dementia in people with diabetes

A study published online September 14, 2022 showed that combining seven healthy lifestyle habits, including sleeping seven to nine hours a day, exercising regularly, and frequent social contact, was associated with a lower risk of dementia in people with type diabetes. 2. Case Neurology®Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic that affects 1 in 10 adults, and having diabetes is known to increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. We investigated whether a wide range of healthy lifestyle habits could offset the risk of dementia and found that people with diabetes who incorporated seven healthy habits into their lives were less likely to develop dementia than people with diabetes who did not lead healthy lives.

Yingli Lu, MD, PhD, study author, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, China

For the study, researchers looked at a UK healthcare database and identified 167,946 people aged 60 or older with 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 the seven healthy habits. Habits included current no smoking, moderate alcohol consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, weekly regular physical activity of at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and seven to nine hours of sleep per day. Another factor was eating a healthy diet that included more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, fewer refined grains, and processed and unprocessed meats. The final habits were to be less active, which was defined as watching television less than four hours a day, frequent social contact, which was defined as living with others, gathering with friends or family at least once a month and participating in activities Social at least once a week or more.

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 followed zero to only two healthy habits, 11% followed three, 22% followed four, 30% followed five, 24% followed 6 and 9% followed all.

People with diabetes who had fewer than seven healthy habits were four times more likely to develop dementia than people without diabetes who followed the 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.

For the diabetics who followed all the habits, there were 21 cases of dementia for 7,474 people of the year or 0.28%. A person’s years represent both the number of people studying and the amount of time each person spends studying. For people with diabetes who only had habits or less, there were 72 cases of dementia per 10,380 person-years, or 0.69%. After adjusting for factors such as age, education, and race, people who followed all the habits had a 54% lower risk of developing dementia than those who followed two or fewer. Each additional healthy habit people followed was associated with an 11% lower risk of dementia. The relationship between a healthy lifestyle score and risk of dementia was not affected by the medications people took or how well they controlled their blood sugar.

“Our research shows that for people with type 2 diabetes, the risk of developing dementia can be significantly reduced by adopting a healthier lifestyle,” Lu said. “Physicians and other medical professionals who treat people with diabetes should consider recommending lifestyle changes to their patients. These changes may not only improve overall health, but also contribute to preventing or delaying the onset of dementia in people with diabetes.”

One limitation of the study was that the subjects reported their life habits and might not remember every detail accurately. Lifestyle changes over time were also not recorded.

The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and other funders.


Journal reference:

Wang b. et al. (2022) Association of healthy combined lifestyle factors with incident dementia in patients with type 2 diabetes. Neurology.