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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Mar 13;98(6):3440-5. Epub 2001 Mar 6.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neurogeriatrics, Department of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA. rpf2@po.cwru.edu

Abstract

The development of Alzheimer's disease (AD) later in life may be reflective of environmental factors operating over the course of a lifetime. Educational and occupational attainments have been found to be protective against the development of the disease but participation in activities has received little attention. In a case-control study, we collected questionnaire data about 26 nonoccupational activities from ages 20 to 60. Participants included 193 people with probable or possible AD and 358 healthy control-group members. Activity patterns for intellectual, passive, and physical activities were classified by using an adaptation of a published scale in terms of "diversity" (total number of activities), "intensity" (hours per month), and "percentage intensity" (percentage of total activity hours devoted to each activity category). The control group was more active during midlife than the case group was for all three activity categories, even after controlling for age, gender, income adequacy, and education. The odds ratio for AD in those performing less than the mean value of activities was 3.85 (95% confidence interval: 2.65-5.58, P < 0.001). The increase in time devoted to intellectual activities from early adulthood (20-39) to middle adulthood (40-60) was associated with a significant decrease in the probability of membership in the case group. We conclude that diversity of activities and intensity of intellectual activities were reduced in patients with AD as compared with the control group. These findings may be because inactivity is a risk factor for the disease or because inactivity is a reflection of very early subclinical effects of the disease, or both.

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