Dementia: Could exercise help prevent Alzheimer's related deaths?

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
Shadows of trees and people on bicycles outdoorShare on Pinterest
New research suggests that vigorous exercise may help lower mortality rates related to dementia. Suhaimi Abdullah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • More than 55 million people globally have dementia. As of 2019, about 1.62 million deaths worldwide were attributed to dementia.
  • Dementia symptoms can be managed, and life expectancy can be increased through the use of medications and lifestyle changes.
  • A new study found that vigorous physical activity can help lower dementia mortality rates.

A group of researchers recently published a study in the Lancet Healthy Longevity, suggesting that participating in vigorous physical activity can help lower dementia mortality rate compared to moderate physical activity.

More than 55 million people around the world have dementia, which is the symptom of a series of neurological conditions affecting the brain. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

As of 2019, researchers found about 1.62 million deaths globally were attributed to dementia, making it the fourth largest cause of death among individuals 70 or older.

Although there is currently no cure for most types of dementia nor a way to reverse its impact on the brain, symptoms can be managed, and life expectancy can be increased through medications and certain lifestyle changes.

One such lifestyle change is getting more physical activity.

Researchers then linked survey participants to the National Death Index until December 31, 2019, looking for anyone who had an Alzheimer’s disease-related mortality.

Scientists found 2,176 study participants died due to Alzheimer’s disease as the leading cause.

For participants who self-reported doing moderate physical activity, the researchers did not find a significant association with Alzheimer’s disease-related mortality.

“[It] could be that moderate intensity is not enough to elicit an optimal response to affect Alzheimer’s disease or its prevention,” Dr. del Pozo Cruz said. “It could also be that [the] question to collect moderate activity did also include some forms of lighter activities.”

However, for participants who participated in vigorous physical activity, scientists could identify a minimal amount of 40 minutes per week and an optimal amount of 140 minutes per week for reducing Alzheimer’s disease-related death.

“I think [the message] is clear — do engage in vigorous physical activity to maximize the chances of preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly a number of other Health benefits will also appear,” Dr. del Pozo Cruz said.

However, “[w]e need to replicate the study with objective measures of the exposure (i.e. physical activity),” he cautioned. “Until then [it] is difficult to make definitive conclusions about how intensity is crucial for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Share this Article