Researchers in Sweden have found that women who exercise and stay cognitively active during midlife have a reduced risk of dementia in older age. The findings are published today (Wednesday 20 February) in the scientific journal, Neurology.
In 1968, Swedish researchers began studying a group of 800 women in midlife, between the ages of 38 and 54, and measured the amount of time they spent doing cognitively stimulating activities, including reading books and writing. The team also recorded how much physical activity the women did including walking, and intense training like swimming.
The team followed the volunteers until 2012 to see if they went onto develop dementia. They found 194 women developed dementia and those who were more engaged in physical activity and spent more time doing cognitive tasks also had a lower risk of developing the condition.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This research is more evidencethat physical, mental and social activity all play a role in cognitive health. Midlife is increasingly seen as a key time when it comes to reducing dementia risk, however keeping physically and mentally active can hold benefits for people of any age, so it is never too early or too late to adopt a lifestyle that supports a healthy brain.
“Just a third of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia, compared to 77% who believe they can reduce their risk of heart disease. While there is no sure-fire risk way to prevent the condition, our brains don’t operate in isolation from the rest of our bodies and a good rule of thumb for everyone is that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain.
“The best current evidence indicates as well as staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking only within the recommended limits and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to support a healthy brain as we age.”