The elderly can reduce their chances of
acquiring dementia if they remain physically active, says a new research.
According to the findings of a multinational
European study carried out for three years, those who engage in regular
physical activity reduce their chances of getting vascular dementia by 40
percent and cognitive impairment (inclusive of vascular dementia) by 60 percent. Vascular dementia is the
dementia occurring due to the disease of the blood vessels of the brain
(cerebrovascular disease). Generally, this disorder occurs only in the elderly.
The results also reveal that the benefits
of regular physical activity and its protective effect seemed unaffected by
factors such as age, education, changes in the white matter of the brain and a
history of diabetes or stroke.
The study was carried out on 639 people
who were in their sixties and seventies, of whom 55 percent were women. The
subjects participated in phone interviews and were asked about their clinical
visits, depression, quality of life, and about the way in which they carried
out their everyday activities. Approximately, 64 percent of the subjects said
that they were active for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
Activities included walking, biking or gym-based exercises.
By carrying out magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) tests during the initiation and end of the study, the
researchers were able to identify and measure changes in the white matter of
the brain. These changes are indicative of cognitive problems including urinary
complaints, difficulty in walking, and depression. White matter changes are
common in older people and are associated with vascular risk factors such as
At the end of the follow-up study it was
discovered that 90 patients had dementia, of which 54 percent had vascular
dementia caused by impaired blood flow to the brain, 34 patients were
potentially at risk for Alzheimer's disease while another 147 patients
displayed cognitive impairment, but did not have dementia.
Ana Verdelho, M.D., lead author of the study and
a researcher of neuroscience at the University of Lisbon, Santa Maria Hospital,
Portugal, recommends moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes three
times a week to prevent cognitive impairment. This is particularly important
for those who have a history of diabetes, stroke or hypertension.
The results of the study have been published in
the American Heart Association journal 'Stroke'.