Midlife habits may be important for the later development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We estimated the contribution
of midlife prayer to the development of cognitive decline.
In a door-to-door survey, residents aged ≥65 years were systematically evaluated in Arabic including medical history,
neurological, cognitive examination, and a midlife leisure-activities questionnaire. Praying was assessed by the number of
monthly praying hours at midlife. Stepwise logistic regression models were used to evaluate the effect of prayer on the
odds of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD versus cognitively normal individuals.
Of 935 individuals that were approached, 778 [normal controls (n=448), AD (n=92) and MCI (n=238)] were evaluated. A
higher proportion of cognitively normal individuals engaged in prayer at midlife [(87%) versus MCI (71%) or AD (69%)
(p<0.0001)]. Since 94% of males engaged in prayer, the effect on cognitive decline could not be assessed in men. Among
women, stepwise logistic regression adjusted for age and education, showed that prayer was significantly associated with
reduced risk of MCI (p=0.027, OR=0.55, 95% CI 0.33-0.94), but not AD. Among individuals endorsing prayer activity,
the amount of prayer was not associated with MCI or AD in either gender.
Praying at midlife is associated with lower risk of mild cognitive impairment in women.