Researchers found that middle-age women in Sweden with a high degree of cardiovascular fitness were almost 90 percent less likely to develop dementia later in life than those who had a moderate fitness level.
Fitness, as described in this study, doesn't only mean lots of exercise.
The highly fit women were 88 per cent less likely to develop dementia than the moderately fit women. But a new study published today in Neurology, offers a new perspective that's particularly pertinent to women.
"These findings are exciting because it's possible that improving people's cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia", said study author Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden. While the study specifically looks at cardiovascular health and fitness, Horder says strength training and muscle building should be incorporated with age. At the start of the study, in 1968, all of the middle-age women were given an exercise test on a stationary bike in which they cycled until they felt exhausted. The average peak workload was 103 watts, and c for high fitness was considered to be 120 watts - 40 women were able to meet this criterion.
Swedish researchers over a 44 year period conducted a study entitled 'Prospective Population Study of Women in Göteborg.' More than 1400 women took part between the ages of 38-60.
Overall, 44 participants developed dementia over the course of the study. They then created a subsample consisting of 191 women (average age, 50 years).
Analysis revealed the highly fit women were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who were moderately fit.
Among the women who had to stop the exercise test due to problems, 45 per cent developed dementia decades later.
Dr Hörder added: 'This indicates that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life'.
She said limitations of the study included the relatively small number of women involved, all of whom were from Sweden, so the results may not be applicable to other groups. Also, the women's fitness level was measured only once, so any changes in fitness over time were not captured.