Midlife Fitness Linked to Cognition Later

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Midlife Fitness Linked to Cognition Later
Midlife Fitness Linked to Cognition Later

(HealthDay News) — People who are fit in their 40s seem to retain more brain volume 2 decades later and also perform better on decision-making tests, new research suggests. 

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2015 Scientific Sessions.

Nicole Spartano, PhD, of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined data from 1,271 people who underwent exercise treadmill testing in the 1970s, when their average age was 41 years. In their 60s, the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans and mental performance tests.

Those at midlife who had experienced a greater increase in heart rate or diastolic blood pressure (BP) after a few minutes of low-intensity exercise on a treadmill — signs of lower fitness levels — had smaller brain volumes later in life, Spartano and her colleagues found. 

Similarly, those with larger increases in BP levels during low-intensity exercise performed worse on a cognition test of decision-making ability in their 60s.

Every 7.1 mm Hg rise in diastolic BP and additional 8.3 beats per minute in heart rate over participants' resting levels were equated with an additional half-year of brain aging, Spartano told HealthDay

"In elderly individuals, improvements in fitness have been shown to prevent brain aging over the short-term," she said. "But it has not been clear whether fitness throughout adulthood has an impact on brain aging. In particular, it has not been clear how longstanding (or short-lived) an impact midlife fitness might have on late-life cognition."

Reference

  1. Spartano N et al. Abstract 13. Presented at: American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2015 Scientific Sessions; March 3-6, 2015; Baltimore.
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