For several years, studies have suggested that there is a link between health status or lifestyle and rate of progression in Alzheimer’s disease. Research on published in International Psychogeriatrics studied 335 individuals diagnosed with dementia for 11 years in a population-based longitudinal study of memory and aging.
Baseline descriptors were sex, age, education, dementia duration at baseline, and APOE genotype. Health status was measured at each visit using the General Medical Health Rating (GMHR), in addition to the number of comorbid medical conditions, and number of non-psychiatric medications. Dementia outcomes included the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating – sum of boxes (CDR-sb), and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Researchers found that none of the baseline medical variables was associated with differences in rates of decline. They did find that time–varying General Medical Health Rating (GMHR), but not baseline GMHR, was associated with the outcomes. Low GMHR, over time, and nothing else in the study, was associated with poorer outcomes.
The authors conclude that “it seems likely that there is a dynamic relationship between medical and cognitive health. GMHR is a more sensitive measure of health than simple counts of comorbidities or medications. Since health status is a potentially modifiable risk factor, further study is warranted.”