No increased risk of Alzheimer's disease among people with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases: findings from a longitudinal cohort study of U.S. older adults

BMC Rheumatol. 2021 Nov 12;5(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s41927-021-00219-x.


Objective: Immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID) are characterized by systemic inflammation affecting the joints and bodily organs. Studies examining the association between individual IMIDs and the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) have yielded inconsistent findings. This study examines AD risk across a group of IMIDs in a large population-based sample of older adults.

Methods: Data on a national sample of US adults over age 50 was drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and linked Medicare claims from 2006 to 2014. IMIDs include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and related conditions. We identified IMIDs from 2006 to 2009 Medicare claims using International Classification of Diseases (ICD9-CM) codes. The date of incident AD was derived from Chronic Conditions Warehouse (CCW) identifiers. We examined the risk of AD from 2009 to 2014 using Cox proportional hazards models, both unadjusted and adjusted for age, gender, education, race, and the genetic risk factor APOE-e4.

Results: One hundred seventy-one (6.02%) of the 2842 total HRS respondents with Medicare coverage and genetic data were classified with IMIDs. Over the subsequent 6 years, 9.36% of IMID patients developed AD compared to 8.57% of controls (unadjusted hazard ratio (HR): 1.09, 95% CI .66-1.81, p = 0.74). Adjusted HR 1.27 (95% CI 0.76-2.12, p = 0.35). Age (HR for 10-year increment 3.56, p < .001), less than high school education (HR 1.70, p = .007), and APOE-e4 (HR 2.61, p < .001 for one or two copies), were also statistically significant predictors of AD.

Conclusion: HRS respondents with common IMIDs do not have increased risk of Alzheimer's disease over a 6-year period.