Researchers in Sweden have found that women who exercise and stay cognitively active during midlife have a reduced risk of dementia in older age | Neurology | via Alzheimer’s Research UK
In 1968, Swedish researchers began studying a group of 800 women in midlife, between the ages of 38 and 54, and measured the amount of time they spent doing cognitively stimulating activities, including reading books and writing. The team also recorded how much physical activity the women did including walking, and intense training like swimming.
The team followed the volunteers until 2012 to see if they went onto develop dementia. They found that those who were more engaged in physical activity and spent more time doing cognitive tasks had a lower risk of developing the condition.
Objective: To investigate whether cognitive and physical activities in midlife are associated with reduced risk of dementia and dementia subtypes in women followed for 44 years.
Methods: A population-based sample of 800 women aged 38–54 years (mean age 47 years) was followed from 1968 to 2012. Cognitive (artistic, intellectual, manual, religious, and club) and physical activity were assessed at baseline. During follow-up, dementia, Alzheimer disease, vascular dementia, mixed dementia, and dementia with cerebrovascular disease were diagnosed according to established criteria based on information from neuropsychiatric examinations, informant interviews, hospital records, and registry data. Cox regression models were used with adjustment for age, education, socioeconomic status, hypertension, body mass index, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, angina pectoris, stress, and major depression.
Results: We found that cognitive activity in midlife was associated with a reduced risk of total dementia and Alzheimer disease during follow-up. Physical activity in midlife was associated with a reduced risk of mixed dementia and dementia with cerebrovascular disease. The results were similar after excluding those who developed dementia before 1990, except that physical activity was then also associated with reduced risk of total dementia.
Conclusion: Our findings suggests that midlife cognitive and physical activities are independently associated with reduced risk of dementia and dementia subtypes. The results indicate that these midlife activities may have a role in preserving cognitive health in old age.
Full story at Alzheimer’s Research UK
Full reference: Najar, J. et al. | Cognitive and physical activity and dementia. A 44-year longitudinal population study of women | Neurology | First published February 20, 2019