Research News

Fit middle aged adults have a lower risk of dementia

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 06 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f710


A new study from the US has confirmed that the fitter you are in mid-life, the less likely you are to develop dementia later. The authors studied a cohort of nearly 20 000 healthy, well educated, and affluent adults from Texas who had a fitness test at a mean age of about 50 years. They looked for records of new dementia from any cause in claims from Medicare 20-30 years later. Medicare is federally funded health insurance for US adults aged 65 years or more. Participants in the top fifth of the distribution for fitness in mid-life were 36% less likely to make a new claim for dementia than adults in the bottom fifth, and the link was independent of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, body mass index, and serum lipids (hazard ratio 0.64, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.77).

This big study provides more good news about exercise and fitness in mid-life, says a linked editorial (p 213). It found an association between fitness and a lower risk of dementia even among healthy well remunerated men and women who attended a clinic for preventive health checks. Those in the bottom fifth looked fit by the standards of most previous studies. They must have been doing substantial amounts of exercise.

Simply telling people to do more exercise rarely works, says the editorial. A chance to reduce the risk of dementia might be a powerful motivator.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f710