Exercise in youth may prevent dementia
Exercise Now to Reduce Dementia Risk Later in Life
A new study of more than 19,000 adults associates fitness in middle age with a lower risk of dementia later in life.
By Annie Hauser
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MONDAY, Feb. 4, 2013 —Here's one powerful reason to go to the gym today: Your level of cardiovascular fitness now might lower your risk for dementia later in life, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center report in theAnnals of Internal Medicine.
Between 1970 and 2009, researchers at a community health center gave treadmill tests to more than 19,000 generally healthy, non-elderly adults. The participants who performed the best on treadmill tests were the least likely to experience any type of dementia after age 65, prompting researchers to conclude that higher physical fitness levels in middle age may be protective against dementia. Therefore, physical fitness might be a modifiable risk factor for the disease, researchers say.
The association between physical fitness and a lower dementia risk remained, even after controlling for hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, indicating that fitness is a powerful marker for future health in both "super healthy" gym rats and those with chronic conditions.
Mary Sano, PhD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, writes in an accompanying editorial that this study is just the latest in a "tidal wave of evidence about the benefits of physical fitness in several health areas across the life span." This study is also just the latest to confirm that the behaviors you engage in today can profoundly affect your future health.
Midlife depression, smoking, and high body mass index have all previously been found to increase dementia risk later in life, Dr. Sano said, and fitness has also been shown to improve dementia-related mortality.
Because the highest levels of physical fitness are most associated with a cognitive benefit, this suggests that a "fitness habit" is key to receiving a cognitive benefit, Sano wrote.
In the study, researchers say that aiming for the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week might help improve long-term health. But a 2011 report in theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine found that less than 10 percent of the population hits this benchmark. Furthermore, the report found, health problems — rather than preventive care — were most likely to motivate behavioral changes.
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