Teens With Low IQ, Poor Heart Fitness At Risk For Early-Onset Dementia
March 11, 2014

Teens With Low IQ, Poor Heart Fitness At Risk For Early-Onset Dementia

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Men who have subpar cardiovascular fitness levels and a lower IQ during their teenage years are more likely to suffer from early-onset dementia, researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy of Gothenburg University report in the March 6 edition of the journal Brain.

In a statement, researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy said that they had previously discovered a link between cardiovascular fitness at or before the age of 18 and health later on in life. In this new study, however, they conducted an analysis of the medical data of more than one million young Swedish men and found that poor physical and cognitive health during their teenage years increased the risk of dementia before the age of 60.

“Previous studies have shown the correlation between cardiovascular fitness and the risk of dementia in old age. Now, for the first time, we can show that the increased risk also applies to early-onset dementia and its precursors,” explained lead investigator and Sahlgrenska Academy researcher Jenny Nyberg.

Statistically speaking, Nyberg and her co-authors discovered that male patients who had poorer cardiovascular fitness when they were conscripted were 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia prior to their 60th birthday. Likewise, a lower IQ score represented a four-times greater risk of early-onset dementia, while the combination of the two represented a seven-times increased risk of the neurodegenerative condition.

“We already knew that physical and cognitive exercise reduces the risk of neurological disease,” said senior author and Georg Kuhn of the Gothenburg University Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

“Physical exercise increases nerve cell complexity and function and even generation of new nerve cells in the adult brain, which strengthens our mental and physiological functions,” he added. “In other words, good cardiovascular fitness makes the brain more resistant to damage and disease.”

Kuhn, Nyberg and their colleagues also reported that the increased risk was still present when heredity, medical history and other risk factors were controlled for. Early-onset dementia patients are typically of working age and can have children who are still living at home, meaning that there is a serious impact on them and their families.

“This makes it important to initiate more research into how physical and mental exercise can affect the prevalence of different types of dementia,” Nyberg noted. “Perhaps exercise can be used as both a prophylactic and a treatment for those in the risk zone for early-onset dementia.”

A total of 1.1 million Swedish men, representing all males conscripted for military service between the years 1968 and 2005, were analyzed for the study. The results of their cardiovascular fitness and IQ tests were compared to information included in national disease registries. Approximately two percent of all 65- to 69-year-olds are diagnosed with dementia, and during the study period, 660 of the participants were diagnosed with early-onset dementia.