Researchers have found regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
A Swedish study, published in journal Neurology, found women with high physical fitness at middle age were nearly 90 per cent less likely to develop dementia later in life, compared to those who were only moderately fit during middle age.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe various neurological conditions in which brain cells are damaged, leading to a loss of brain function. It is progressive disease and can happen to anybody but is more common after the age of 65 years.
During the Swedish study, nearly 200 women were monitored for close to 50 years to see how fitness impacted neurological condition.
They took a bicycle exercise test to determine their fitness level: low, medium or high. Over the next 44 years, the women were tested for dementia six times. During that time, 44 of the 191 women developed the condition. Five percent of the highly fit women developed dementia, compared to 25 percent of moderately fit women and 32 percent of the women with low fitness.
The highly fit women were 88 per cent less likely to develop dementia than the moderately fit women.
The study’s author Helena Horder said it was a ground-breaking discovery.
“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” Ms Horder said.
At present there is no prevention or cure for most forms of dementia – but some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms in some forms of the illness.
Doctor Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor said many Australians were affected by dementia.
“In recent years, there has been a large increase in the number of people diagnosed with dementia,” Dr Harvey said.
“Unfortunately, this number is likely to continue to grow as our population ages.”
Currently there are more than 350,00 people in Australia living with dementia.
Dr Ryan Harvey is a General Practitioner providing after-hours medical care to children and families. Dr Harvey is experienced in paediatrics and has travelled extensively, administering medical care to children in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight. Dr Harvey is one of the many doctors with House Call Doctor, an organisation that provides urgent after-hours medical care to residents in Queensland, when their regular GP is closed.