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High Fitness in Middle Age May Protect Against Dementia in Later Years

Dementia commonly develops in later life, but researchers still aren’t sure what causes it. A recent study suggests that women with high physical fitness in middle age may be 88% less likely to develop dementia later in life when compared with women who were moderately fit in middle age.


Participants in the study included 191 women with an average age of 50 at the beginning of the study. All of the women took a bicycle exercise test until exhaustion in order to measure their peak cardiovascular capacity. The researchers found that 40 women had a high fitness level, 92 had medium fitness, and 59 had low fitness.


The women were followed for 44 years and were tested for dementia six times during that time. 44 of the women developed dementia. Only 5% of the highly fit women developed dementia, compared to 25% of the moderately fit women and 32% of women with low fitness. Of the women who had to stop the exercise test due to problems such as high blood pressure, chest pain, or other cardiovascular problems, 45% developed dementia later in life.


Researchers from the University of Gothenburg conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 14, 2018, in the journal Neurology.


Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise may help with blood sugar control, body weight reduction, improved heart health, improved respiratory health and reduced risk of dying prematurely.

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