Regular physical activity reduces risk of dementia in older people

November 01, 2012

Regular physical activity may help older people reduce their chances of getting dementia.

In a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, older, non-disabled people who regularly engaged in physical activity reduced their risk of vascular-related dementia by 40 percent and cognitive impairment of any etiology by 60 percent.

The protective effect of regular physical activity remained regardless of age, education, changes in the brain's white matter and even previous history of stroke or diabetes, researchers said. The findings are based on a prospective multinational European study that included yearly comprehensive cognitive assessments for three years. The results are part of increasing evidence that regular physical activity promotes brain health, researchers said.

"We strongly suggest physical activity of moderate intensity at least 30 minutes three times a week to prevent cognitive impairment," said Ana Verdelho, M.D., lead author of the study and a neuroscience researcher at the University of Lisbon, Santa Maria Hospital in Portugal. "This is particularly important for people with vascular risk factors such as hypertension, stroke or diabetes."

The analysis included 639 people in their 60s and 70s; 55 percent were women and almost 64 percent said they were active at least 30 minutes a day three times a week. The activity included gym classes, walking and biking.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for optimal health.

Researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests at the beginning and end of the study to gauge white matter changes in the brain, an indicator of possible cognitive decline.

"Damage of the cerebral white matter is implicated in cognitive problems including depression, walking difficulties and urinary complaints," Verdelho said. "White matter changes are very common in older people and mainly associated with vascular risk factors like hypertension and stroke."

Throughout the study, researchers asked participants in phone interviews and clinical visits about depression, quality of life and performing everyday activities.

At the end of the follow-up, 90 patients had dementia, including 54 with vascular dementia in which impaired blood flow to the brain causes cognitive decline, and 34 patients met criteria for Alzheimer's disease. Another 147 patients developed cognitive impairment, but not dementia.
-end-
Co-authors are Sofia Madureira, Psy.D.; José M. Ferro, M.D., Ph.D.; Hansjörg Baezner, M.D., Ph.D.; Christian Blahak, M.D.; Michael Hennerici, M.D.; Christian Blahak, M.D.; Anna Poggesi, M.D.; Leonardo Pantoni, M.D., Ph.D.; Franz Fazekas, M.D.; Philip Scheltens, M.D., Ph.D.; Gunhild Waldemar, M.D., D.M.Sc.; Anders Wallin, M.D., Ph.D.; Timo Erkinjuntti, M.D., Ph.D. and Domenico Inzitari, M.D. Author disclosures and funding sources are on the manuscript.

Read how physical activity improves your quality of life. If you've had a stroke, physical activity is also beneficial.

For the latest heart and stroke news, follow @Heart News on Twitter.

For stroke science updates, follow the Stroke journal at @StrokeAHA_ASA.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

American Heart Association

Related Dementia Articles from Brightsurf:

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients
Strong sleeping pills known as 'Z-drugs' are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia, according to new research.

The long road to dementia
Alzheimer's disease develops over decades. It begins with a fatal chain reaction in which masses of misfolded beta-amyloid proteins are produced that in the end literally flood the brain.

Why people with dementia go missing
People with dementia are more likely to go missing in areas where road networks are dense, complicated and disordered - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

PTSD may double risk of dementia
People who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

Building dementia friendly churches
A project to help church communities become more 'dementia friendly' has had a significant impact across the country.

A "feeling" for dementia?
A research team led by the DZNE concludes that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

New biomarker for dementia diagnosis
Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker which could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

Digital solutions for dementia care
Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available, Australian researchers say.

Despite a marked reduction in the prevalence of dementia, the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 according to new Alzheimer Europe report
Today, at a European Parliament lunch debate, Alzheimer Europe launched a new report presenting the findings of its collaborative analysis of recent prevalence studies and setting out updated prevalence rates for dementia in Europe.

Read More: Dementia News and Dementia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.