Many factors contribute to dementia — some of which are within your control, and others that are not. In the latest study published in Neurology, researchers focused on one thing that people may be able to do to lower their risk of developing dementia later in life: staying fit.
In the study, which involved nearly 1,500 women in Sweden who provided information on their physical activity levels and took cognitive tests for up to 44 years, scientists found that women with higher fitness levels were 88% less likely to develop dementia compared to women with average fitness. Women with lower fitness had a 41% higher risk of developing dementia than women with average fitness.
Fitness is not the same as exercise, however, and higher levels of physical activity don’t necessarily translate into improved fitness. Helena Horder, a physiotherapist from the Center for Aging and Health-AGECAP at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and her colleagues measured cardiovascular fitness, an indicator of how well the circulation of blood is feeding the heart and the brain. “If the small blood vessels and circulation in the heart are okay, then the brain is also affected in a positive way by good small vessel circulation,” says Horder.