Teenagers with poor fitness and poor cognitive performance are seven times more likely to develop early-onset dementia, according to research published in the journal Brain (6 March 2014).
The research, conducted at Gothenburg University, tracked the health of 1.1 million 18-year-old men who were conscripted into the Swedish army between 1968 and 2005. It found that men with poorer cardiovascular fitness and/or lower IQ in their teenage years more often developed early-onset dementia.
More specifically, men with lowest levels of cardiovascular fitness at the time of conscription were 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia before the age of 60 than those with highest fitness levels. Those who performed poorly on cognitive tests at 18 were at four times greater risk, and a combination of both poor cardiovascular fitness and cognitive performance entailed a seven times greater risk. The increased risk remained even when controlled for other risk factors such as heredity, medical history and social-economic circumstances.
Alzheimer’s Society comment:
‘At the age of 18, we don’t necessarily consider the long-term implications of our fitness. However, these research findings suggest that having lower cardio fitness earlier in life may substantially increase your risk of developing early-onset dementia. Much of the research on early-onset dementia to date has been on genetic factors, but this study suggests lifestyle factors should be a focus of future research.
We know that eating a healthy diet, not smoking and doing regular exercise are the best ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia. It may never be too early to start talking preventative action.’