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May 2, 2014

Is Poor Fitness Linked to Dementia?

Self-Rated Poor Fitness

It turns out people are pretty accurate and honest when it comes to self-rating their health. In fact, self-rated health accurately predicts adverse health events. Could the same be true when it comes to self-rated fitness? A study from Finland suggests a link between self-reports of poor fitness and risk of dementia.

The study asked 3,559 adults around the age of 50 to rate their fitness levels and followed them for 30 years. Those who rated themselves with poor fitness were four times more likely to develop dementia than those who reported a good level of fitness. The study is the first large population-based study looking at the link between self-rated physical fitness during mid- and later life and risk of dementia.

The participants came from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) study which is an ongoing study investigating the link between social, lifestyle, and cardiovascular factors and dementia.

Poor Fitness and Other Health Conditions

The link between poor fitness and dementia was stronger among those with chronic disease (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc). This makes sense. One common denominator that all those chronic diseases share is they are all caused in part by silent inflammation and silent inflammation has been linked to dementia, too.

Though the study found a link between poor fitness and dementia the study was not designed to prove a cause and effect relationship. Poor physical fitness is linked to sedentary lifestyle, poor mental health, obesity, smoking, lower education levels, and social isolation. All of these have been associated with increased dementia risk.

So the real value of the study just might be that self-rated reports of fitness should identify a person at risk for dementia. Then hopefully steps to intervene can be explored to lower their dementia risk.

But, a lot of that intervention requires the cooperation and motivation of the individual. As we’ve said before about 75% of how well we age is dependent on our lifestyle habits. Also, keep learning. You are never to old to learn some new stuff. Jack Hughston, MD, one of the grandfathers of Sports Medicine and an early mentor of mine, used to say, “As long as you’re green you’re still growing. Once you’re ripe you’re next to rotten.” Ongoing learning keeps us green. Stay green my friend (and thirsty)!

 

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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