Physical fitness has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but even moderate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness offer some protection, according to new findings.
“An exciting finding from this study is that as people’s physical condition improved, their risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased – this was not an all-or-nothing proposition,” the researcher said. Study Edward Zamrini, MD, of the Washington VA Medical Center in Washington, DC. , said in a press release.
The results suggest people can work to make gradual changes and improve their physical fitness, which can help reduce their risk of dementia, Zamrini added.
The results will be presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in April.
Effective prevention strategy
Using the Veterans Health Administration database, researchers identified 649,605 veterans (mean age, 61) without Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) when they conducted standardized treadmill exercises between 2000 and 2017.
They divided the participants into five age-specific fitness groups, from least fit to most fit, based on the maximum metabolic equivalents (METs) achieved during the treadmill test: lowest fit (METs, ±3.8), least fit (METs, ±5.8), moderate fit (METs, ±7.5), fit (METs, ±9.2), and highest fit (METs, ±11.7 ).
In an unadjusted analysis, veterans with the lowest cardiorespiratory fitness developed ADRD at a rate of 9.5 cases per 1,000 person-years, compared to a rate of 6.4 cases per 1,000 person-years for the fittest group (P
After adjusting for factors that may affect the risk of ADRD, compared to the least fit group, the most fit and fit groups were 33% and 26% less likely to develop ADRD, respectively, while that the moderately fit and weakly fit groups were 20% and 13% less likely to develop the disease, respectively.
|fitness group||Adjusted HR for ADRD (95% CI)|
|Low cut||0.87 (0.85 to 0.90)|
|Moderate fit||0.80 (0.78 to 0.83)|
|Adapt||0.74 (0.72 to 0.76)|
|Highest fit||0.67 (0.65 to 0.70)|
The results suggest that the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and ADRD risk is “inverse, independent, and graded,” the researchers said in their conference abstract.
“The idea that you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease simply by increasing your activity is very promising, especially since there are no adequate treatments to prevent or halt the progression of the disease,” said Zamrini added in the release.
“We hope to develop a simple scale that can be individualized so people can see the benefits that even incremental improvements in fitness can bring,” he said.
The next vital sign?
Commenting on the study of Medscape Medical News, Shaheen E. Lakhan, MD, PhD, a neurologist in Boston, Massachusetts, noted that “For decades and with growing support from studies like this, we have known that dementia prevention is based on healthy behaviors to the brain, including a good diet (NASH and/or Mediterranean), exercise regimen (aerobic/cardio more than anaerobic/weightlifting), sleep hygiene, and social and intellectual engagements.”
“Frankly, what’s good for the body is good for the brain,” Lakhan said.
“It should be noted that the measure studied here is cardiorespiratory fitness, which has been associated with heart disease and resulting death, death from any cause, and now brain health,” Lakhan said.
“This powerful predictor may actually be the next vital sign after your heart rate and blood pressure from which your primary care provider can build a personalized treatment plan,” he added.
“To speed up this process, the ability to measure cardiorespiratory fitness traditionally from huge stationary machines to wearable devices like a watch or a ring, or even your iPhone or Android, is just on the horizon,” he said. said Lakhan. Medscape Medical News.
“Instead of just tracking your weight, shape and BMI, personal fitness can be tailored to optimize this indicator and empower individuals to take charge of their health,” he said.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC VA Medical Center and George Washington University. Zamrini and Lakhan did not disclose any relevant financial relationship.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2022 Annual Meeting: Abstract 1475. Due April 2, 2022.