Middle-aged women with high cardiovascular fitness levels were almost 90% less likely to develop dementia in older age than women with moderate aerobic fitness, according to a recent study in the journal Neurology (2018; doi:
10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290).

“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent [women] from developing dementia,” said lead study author, Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “However, this study does not show cause and effect between cardiovascular fitness and dementia; it only shows association. More research is needed to see if improved fitness could have a positive effect on the risk of dementia and also to look at when during a lifetime a high fitness level is most important.”

Data analysis showed that if the highly fit women developed dementia, they developed the disease at about age 90, an average of 11 years later than women who were moderately fit. Investigators used data from a sample group of women enrolled in the longitudinal Swedish Prospective Population Study of Women.

Study limitations included the small sample size (191 participants) and inclusion only of Swedish women, among other factors. More research is recommended.

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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