Diet, Exercise May Fend Off Dementia
Dementia Rarer in Those With Healthy Diets & Physical Activity Earlier in Life
WebMD News Archive
July 18, 2006 -- Eating a healthy diet and exercising in middle age may make
you less likely to have dementiadecades
That's the message from researchers at the 10th International Conference on
Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, being held this week in Madrid,
Studies presented at the conference highlight the potential brain benefits
of eating healthfully and being physically active. The bottom line: The sooner
you get started, the better.
Two of the studies stemmed from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and
Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) project, which included more than 1,400 adults in
Finland. When they joined the study in middle age, participants took diet
surveys and noted work-related and leisure-time physical activity.
20 Years Later
About 20 years later, those who were physically active in their free time
and whose diets were rich in fish and polyunsaturated fats tended to have
sharper minds and better memories than those who hadn't been active, or who had
eaten a lot of saturated fat from milk products and spreads.
These patterns were even seen in people with the ApoE e4 gene, which is
associated with higher risk of Alzheimer's disease, the most common type of
The diet study comes from researchers Marjo Laitinen, MSc, of Finland's
University of Kuopio, and colleagues. The physical activity study was done by
Suvi Rovio, MSc, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and other
Their findings are echoed in two North American studies.
Canadian, U.S. Studies
In Canada, researchers studied more than 4,600 adults who were at least 64
years old. Over five years, 454 participants developed cognitive impairment
that wasn't dementia.
Participants with the highest physical activity levels at the study's start
were least likely to have developed the nondementia cognitive impairment.
Adjusting for age, sex, education level, and other risk factors didn't
change the results, report Laura Middleton, MSc, and colleagues. Middleton
works at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Lastly, the long-term Bogalusa Heart Study -- done in Bogalusa, Ala. --
shows that even at a relatively young age, being in good health may help the
In that study, Tulane University neurology professor Benjamin Seltzer, MD,
and colleagues checked data on 72 Bogalusa Heart Study participants who were
24-44 years old.
Participants took tests of mental skills such as memory and word
Older participants and those with higher blood levels of insulin (a hormone
that controls blood sugar) scored worse on several of the tests.
"These findings emphasize the importance of maintaining cardiovascular
health throughout the life span," write Seltzer and colleagues. They plan
to study whether heart health in childhood influences cognitive function in
In short, taking care of your body may help preserve your brain.