Poor Cardiac Fitness and Lower IQ in Teenage Males Increases Risk of Dementia
We often discuss what we can do to prevent, or at least reduce, our chances of getting dementia later in life. Predicting who may be more at risk from the most common forms such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, gives us some feeling of control. This of course is offset by the knowledge that some forms of dementia have a genetic component which, as yet, we can do nothing about.
A Swedish study from the Universityof Gothenburg, reported in the March 6th (2014) edition of the journal Brain, used data from 1.1 million Swedish men. Scientists found teenagers with poor fitness and poor cognitive performances were seven times more likely to develop early-onset dementia.
The men were first tested when they were conscripted into military service at 18 years of age between 1968 and 2005. Those with the poorest cardiovascular fitness when they were first conscripted were two and a half times more likely to develop dementia before they were 60 years old than those with the high fitness levels.
Poor cognitive performance of new conscripts, (those with lower IQs), was also a risk factor for dementia. They were found to be at a four times risk. The combined findings of a seven times risk factor remained even when controlled for other risk factors such as medical history, heredity and social-economic environment.
This information will be very important to parents and will underscore the importance of what we already know that healthy diet, regular exercise and the avoidance childhood obesity are important. ThePewResearchCenter’s statistics shows a picture of global increases in elderly populations. If the levels of early onset dementia are high within those populations then the effects of people of a working age becoming dependant on their families where the children still live at home will be devastating.
Getting the message of exercise and healthy diets over to children and teens is a challenge. Remember when you were a teen? How much did you relate your chances of illness, and certainly of getting dementia, when you perceived 60 years as ancient? Education can only do so much and poverty and life circumstances are always a factor in the incidence of poor health outcomes.
Both this research and others that have examined the effects of physical and mental exercise, point to a situation where our chosen actions and lifestyle can affect the prevalence of different types of dementia. The knowledge that something as simple and natural as regular exercise can help prevent early onset dementia is a significant insight for us individuals, policy makers, health professionals and educators. Making use of the knowledge may be a harder bridge to cross.
Journal Brain (6 March 2014).