Physically fit women 90 per cent less likely to develop dementia

Dementia

GETTYWomen with high levels of fitness at middle age are 90% less likely to develop dementia

The study found that 32% of the women who tested on the lower end of the bike experiment developed dementia at some point during the next four decades, as did 25% of those who fell in the middle of the fitness pack. Participants were measured for their cardiovascular activity on exercise bikes.

Women with high physical fitness levels in middle age are 90 percent less likely than those who are moderately fit to develop dementia as they age, according to a new Swedish study.

"These findings are exciting because it's possible that improving people's cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia."
So, the onset of dementia may have occurred at age 90 in a woman who was considered extremely fit woman at midlife, compared with age 79 in a moderately fit woman. During that time, the researchers tracked the women's health, taking a close look at who was diagnosed with dementia and who was not.

Fitness, as described in this study, doesn't only mean lots of exercise. A subsample of 191 women participated in an exercise test and were followed until December 2012 for dementia diagnoses.

The fitness test was carried out in 1968, and experts say these women would be of average fitness now, when people exercise more.

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The average peak workload was measured at 103 watts. Based on the results they were split into three groups: high fitness, medium fitness, and low fitness.

During 44 years of follow-up, 44 women developed dementia.

'However, this study does not show cause and effect between cardiovascular fitness and dementia - it only shows an association.

Over the next 4.5 decades the women were regularly tested for dementia.

"Some of it may be the indirect effects of control in cardiovascular risk factors", Dr. Narula said.

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He said it raises people's awareness about the need to be physically fit, particularly in later life.

Cardiac output - which can be increased in training, but has substantial heritability and varies greatly among sedentary individuals - determines about 70% to 85% of fitness, Spartano and Ngandu noted.

Study limitations, the researchers noted, included the small sample size, reducing the possibilities for subanalyses, and since the cohort was relatively homogeneous, the results may not apply to other populations.

What's more, if women in the fittest category did develop dementia, these problems - such as trouble with memory and thinking - tended to emerge, on average, 11 years later than among women in the moderate fitness group.

Neither the authors nor the editorialists reported having any conflicts.

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