Exercise Lowers Risk Of Dementia
December 10, 2013

Exercise Lowers Risk Of Dementia Later In Life

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study from Cardiff University in Wales has found that physical exercise can help to maintain mental health later in life – reducing the risk of dementia and cognitive decline by 60 percent, study researchers said.

Published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, the new study was based on data dating back to 1979 on over 2,200 middle-aged men from the Welsh town of Caerphilly. The researchers looked at factors such as diet, smoking and other lifestyle habits.

The study identified five habits related to a disease-free lifestyle: regular exercise, not smoking, keeping a healthy body weight, maintaining a balanced diet and minimizing alcohol intake.

"The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population," said Peter Elwood, a professor at Cardiff University's school of medicine. "What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health – healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”

"Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is however the responsibility of the individual him or herself. Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle," he added. “Furthermore, our findings reveal that while the number of people who smoke has gone down since the study started, the number of people leading a fully healthy lifestyle has not changed.”

The researchers also found these healthy habits conveyed a 70 percent drop in instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared to men who did not adopt these habits. In a news release, Cardiff University cited recent health survey that indicates that less than one percent of people in Wales following the behaviors outlined in the study.

"If the men had been urged to adopt just one additional healthy behavior at the start of the study 35 years ago, and if only half of them complied, then during the ensuing 35 years there would have been a 13 percent reduction in dementia, a 12 percent drop in diabetes, six per cent less vascular disease and a five per cent reduction in deaths,” Elwood said.

"We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia,” noted Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society in the UK. “These large, longitudinal studies are expensive and complicated to run, but are essential to understand how dementia can be prevented.”

“We are calling on the G8 Summit next week to commit to greater funding of important studies such as this one which give us hope for reducing the impact of dementia in the future,” he added.

The data from the Caerphilly study has already been the basis for over 400 research papers. The study’s purpose was to look at the relationship among healthy lifestyles, chronic disease and cognitive decline over a 35-year period. Researchers have also looked to see the effects of changes toward healthy habits.