Women with higher stamina — or greater cardiovascular fitness — in midlife could decrease their risk of dementia by 88 percent, according to a new study published in the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal, “Neurology.”
Study ties stamina level, dementia risk
The study began in 1968 when 191 Swedish women, age 38 to 60, participated in an exercise bike test to evaluate their cardiovascular stamina. During the test, the women were brought to their “maximum workload” or peak exhaustion.
The women were categorized into three fitness groups based on their workload: Low, medium and high fitness. Of the 191 women, 59 were in the “low fitness” group, 92 were in the “medium fitness” group and 40 were in the “high fitness” category.
For the next 44 years, researchers studied the women’s health, including who was diagnosed with dementia and who wasn’t. The study concluded in 2012.
High stamina reduced dementia risk by 88%
The study’s researchers found 44 (or 23 percent) of the women developed dementia during the research period. Researches also learned:
- The women who had to interrupt their test had a very high incidence of dementia at 45 percent, indicating “adverse cardiovascular processes might be going on in midlife that seem to increase the risk for dementia.”
- The low group had a cumulative incidence of dementia of 32 percent.
- The medium group had an incidence of 25 percent.
- The high group had a cumulative incidence of 5 percent.
- The average age for the onset of dementia was 11 years higher for those in the high group compared to the women in the medium group.
- Compared to the moderate level, the high stamina level had an 88 percent reduced risk of dementia.
More dementia research is still needed
There are other factors that could have affected the findings, according to the study. Researchers noted examples such as genetics, hypertension, obesity and the effects that other conditions may have on the brain as additional components to consider.
Researchers also indicate the study’s sample was relatively small, and because it only included Swedish women, the number could be different for other populations. They also noted there were a number of women who didn’t show up or who passed away during the long-term follow-up period, and more research will need to be done to determine when in life a high stamina is the most beneficial to reduce your risk of dementia.
The study shows correlation, but not necessarily causation, CNN reported. However, it was noted that the researchers’ findings still demonstrate the importance of physical fitness in all stages of a person’s life.
Keep your brain active with a healthy lifestyle
There are many ways to help boost your brain health in addition to physical activity. Puzzles, eating healthy meals and keeping busy are just some things you can do to help improve your memory. The important thing is that you start taking steps now to help your body later. And if you or a loved one does receive a dementia diagnosis, know there are plenty of resources available to help.