There’s a link between fitness and lower risk of dementia, according to a new study.

Aging is not an easy process for the aging — loads of stress, anxiety, and depression makes you fear getting older. That awkward moment when your grand folks can’t tell the difference between you at five and you at college, so they pack the same stuff for your birthday every year. If you don’t want to be there, start hitting the gym now and often. Several studies have found a correlation between physical fitness and lower risk of dementia. A recent study just confirmed that finding with a much larger population sample than usual.


Related media: Dementia: Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis – Psychiatry | Lecturio


Your Fitness Vs Your Memory

The recent study found that being physically fit lowers your risk of developing dementia. Researchers for the first time sampled a population size of over 650,000 veterans who served in the United States millitary and other security services. The researchers studied the link between cardiovascular fitness and dementia.

“Our study is different,” says Edward Zamrini, an adjunct professor of clinical research and leadership at the George Washington University in Washington DC. “The cohort is large, free of dementia symptoms at baseline and has a long follow-up.”

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From previous studies, there has been a correlation between physical fitness and lower risk of developing dementia, but Zamrini says these studies had small sample sizes and didn’t follow up on their participants long enough. Zamrini and his team kept track of their participants for over eight years straight.

For their long study, researchers recruited participants well over 61 years at the start of the study and they were followed up for an average of 8.8 years. During this period, 44,105 participants were diagnosed with having dementia. Researchers divided all participants into five equally sized groups and assessed their performance on a treadmill test at the start of the study — measuring their oxygen intake during the exercises.



The Fitter The Better

The team found that a participant in the group in the least fit members significantly reduced their risk of developing dementia by 13 percent it they joined the second least fit group. And when they joined the fittest group the number dropped by as much as 33 percent. Although most participants studied were male, the statistics from the results of the study’s 36,000 female participants showed no difference among the gender.

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On the contrary, results may have been affected by the fact that all participants were veterans. Most of these people are more likely than not to have post-traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) or have had a some sort of traumatic experience. These factors can increase the risk of developing dementia. Counterintuitively, the study only involved people who had little to no explicit symptoms of having dementia.

Some people with dementia could show no earlier symptoms, and it might have been the case that some participants might have started developing dementia even before they took part in the study, but there were no signs yet. According to Zamrini, there might be several ways that promotes fitness against developing dementia, such as cardiovascular flow of blood to the brain which can increase neural activities and connections.

“It also leads to a lower risk of anxiety, depression and other chronic disease risk factors,” Zamrini says.



Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

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The results of their study will be presented by Zamrini at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Seattle, Washington next April. The team next plan of action is to find for biomarkers that correlates cardiovascular fitness to the risk of developing dementia. This has indeed proved that our physique has an impact on our mental health over long hauls.

Physical exercise helps in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — a critical ingredient that helps with our ability to learn and remember information.

“This work has a clear demonstration of a stepwise effect of aerobic fitness on risk for dementia,” says Ozioma Okonkwo, an associate professor of the Geriatrics Faculty Clinical Science Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. 

Like they say a healthy mind resides in a healthy body, indeed.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Mar 06, 2022.

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