Higher midlife fitness can affect brain health in later Life

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 8, 2013

DALLAS, Texas (Marketwire) — It turns out that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. This is the conclusion of a new study from The Cooper Institute in collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center and Cooper Clinic. The study, published this month in Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that individuals who are fit at midlife have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in their Medicare years.
“We’ve known that exercise is beneficial to brain health in the short-term,” says Laura DeFina, MD, of The Cooper Institute, and first author on the study. “What’s unique about this study is that it demonstrates the long-term, positive effect of fitness on the brain.”
The study followed more than 19,000 generally healthy men and women who completed a preventive medical exam at Cooper Clinic in Dallas when they were, on average, 49 years of age. The exam also included an assessment of other health risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and cholesterol. Their health status was evaluated using Medicare data between the years 1999 and 2009, an average of 24 years after their Cooper Clinic examination.
“The exercise we do in middle-age is relevant for not only how long we live, but also how well we live. This data provides insight into the value of lifelong exercise and its protection against dementia in older age,” says Jarett Berry, MD, of UT Southwestern Medical Center, and a co-author on the study. “The fear of dementia in later life is real, and the possibility that exercise earlier in life can lower that risk is an important public health message.”
Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias are an important public health problem. “One in eight people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cooper Institute. “And payments for health care for 5.4 million Americans with dementia are projected to reach $1.1 trillion in 2050. This study shows that the most cost-effective ways to prevent dementia are through lifestyle changes that require minimal medical intervention.”
Laura DeFina, MD, was the first author on the study which also included co-authors Benjamin Willis, MD, MPH, and David Leonard, PhD, of The Cooper Institute; Nina Radford, MD, of Cooper Clinic; Jarett Berry, MD, Myron Weiner, MD, and Ang Gao, MS, of UT Southwestern Medical Center; and William Haskell, PhD, of Stanford University.
About The Cooper Institute Established in 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, The Cooper Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated worldwide to preventive medicine research and education, housing one of the world’s largest databases on exercise and health. Each year The Cooper Institute develops engaged learners in fitness and health with its courses and nationally accredited Personal Trainer Certification exam. The Cooper Institute offers web-based tools for schools to track and report on youth fitness and nutrition: FitnessGram(R) and NutriGram(R). For more information, visit CooperInstitute.org.
About Cooper Clinic Cooper Clinic, a Cooper Aerobics company based at the world-renowned Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, helps patients Get Cooperized(TM) by giving them an in-depth picture of their health and an action plan to improve it. A leading preventive medicine facility offering same-day results, Cooper Clinic provides comprehensive physical exams, cardiology, breast health, preventive and cosmetic dermatology, gastroenterology, imaging and nutrition services. Founded in 1970 by preventive medicine pioneer and “father of aerobics” Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Cooper Clinic has seen more than 100,000 patients and performed more than 265,000 physical exams. For more information visit cooper-clinic.com.