Physical activity can prevent dementia

Physical exercise for one and a half hours every week can reduce the risk of dementia and brain skills impairment for those aged over 60, is the conclusion of a new European study, published in the journal Stroke.

Researchers from the University of Lisbon, Santa Maria Hospital in Portugal, said that the positive effect of exercise can appear at any age and it is enough to practise for only 30 minutes three times a week, regardless of the type of exercise. Among people who follow such routines the risk of developing vascular-related dementia was found to be 40% lower and the risk of suffering brain skills damage was 60% lower.

The leader of the study, Ana Verdelho, commented that physical activity is strongly recommended for people who have at least one risk factor associated with vascular diseases, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The benefit of exercise was noticed across all age groups and education background and even where people had a history of stroke, she explained.

Some 639 men and women in their 60s and 70s took part in the study, two thirds of which claimed they were physically active at least three times a week for half an hour. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests were given to all participants at the start and at the end of the research to evaluate whether their brains had experienced changes that potentially point to cognitive decline.