Intensity level of activities key to reducing dementia risk: study

A new study has found that the more senior women engage in at least moderately vigorous physical activity, the less likely they are to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia. For an extra 31 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day, there’s a 21% lower risk, the researchers say.

Data came from the Women’s Health Initiative, and included 1,277 participants with a mean age of 82 years. Accelerometers were used to measure activity levels over seven days.

More steps a plus

At a mean follow-up of approximately four years, 267 cases of MCI/probable dementia were found in the participant group. Moderate to vigorous physical activity, especially walking, was linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. For every additional 1,865 daily steps taken, the risk was 33% lower, the researchers found. In comparison, light-intensity physical activity and sitting were not associated with decreased risk.

The results suggest that senior women should maintain moderate levels of activity, or increase the intensity of their light activities, to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, the researchers said. The findings could be particularly useful as wearable devices are increasingly worn by the public and easily adopted, the researchers proposed.

Encourage seniors

“Physical activity has been identified as one of the three most promising ways to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Andrea LaCroix, PhD, MPH, of the University of California, San Diego. “Prevention is important because once dementia is diagnosed, it is very difficult to slow or reverse it. There is no cure.”

“Older adults can be encouraged to increase at least moderate intensity movement and take more steps each day for milder cognitive impairment and a lower risk of dementia,” added Steve Nguyen, PhD, MPH. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may include brisk walking.

The study was published in 2015 Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

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