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Midlife Fitness Reduces Risk of Dementia

Researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas found that people who have the highest cardiorespiratory fitness levels during midlife are less likely to develop dementia in their later years, regardless of a history of stroke.

Laura F. DeFina, MD, and colleagues report in Annals of Internal Medicine that among about 20,000 individuals who participated in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, those who had the highest scores on a treadmill test had a lower risk of developing dementia after age 65, compared to those who got the lowest scores.

For the study, the participants’ Medicare records were examined to determine diagnoses of dementia at ages 70, 75, 80, and 85. The researchers calculated the risk for dementia according to levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, after adjusting for other baseline factors such as sex, age, blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose, body mass index, and smoking status.

Their calculations showed that, by age 92, more than half of the surviving participants in the two highest fitness level groups remained free of dementia, compared with those in the lowest fitness level group. This was not affected by a history of stroke or cerebrovascular disease.

Although a cause and effect relationship was not proven, the authors believe that fitness may reduce the likelihood of other factors like diabetes and hypertension, which have been linked to dementia. Fitness and physical activity have also been previously shown to affect brain volume, brain activity and the presence of beta-amyloid protein deposits, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Other dementia experts agree that physical activity may be recommended, not only for cardiovascular health, but also to possibly reduce the risk for dementia.


Gever, J. Fitness in 40s, 50s Tied to Later Dementia Risk. MedPage Today.

Posted in: Mental Health, News Briefs, Seniors' Health

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