Background: Healthy lifestyles based on non-smoking, an acceptable BMI, a high fruit and vegetable intake, regular physical activity, and low/moderate alcohol intake, are associated with reductions in the incidence of certain chronic diseases, but to date there is limited evidence on cognitive function and dementia.
Methods: In 1979 healthy behaviours were recorded on 2,235 men aged 45-59 years in Caerphilly, UK. During the following 30 years incident diabetes, vascular disease, cancer and death were recorded, and in 2004 cognitive state was determined.
Findings: Men who followed four or five of the behaviours had an odds ratio (OR) and confidence intervals (CI) for diabetes, corrected for age and social class, of 0.50 (95% CI: 0.19, 1.31; P for trend with increasing numbers of healthy behaviours <0.0005). For vascular disease the OR was 0.50 (95% CI: 0.30, 0.84; P for trend <0.0005), and there was a delay in vascular disease events of up to 12 years. Cancer incidence was not significantly related to lifestyle although there was a reduction associated with non-smoking (OR: 0.65; 95% CI: 0.54, 0.79). All-cause mortality was reduced in men following four or five behaviours (OR 0.40; 95% CI: 0.24, 0.67; P for trend <0.005). After further adjustment for NART, the OR for men following four or five healthy behaviours was 0.36 (95% CI: 0.12, 1.09; P for trend <0.001) for cognitive impairment, and 0.36 (95% CI: 0.07, 1.99; P for trend <0.02) for dementia. The adoption of a healthy lifestyle by men was low and appears not to have changed during the subsequent 30 years, with under 1% of men following all five of the behaviours and 5% reporting four or more in 1979 and in 2009.
Interpretation: A healthy lifestyle is associated with increased disease-free survival and reduced cognitive impairment but the uptake remains low.