THE VIEW FROM THE OFFICE
PRESERVING OUR MENTAL AND COGNITIVE HEALTH
Physical Activity and Cognitive Health
In the office I am often asked by patients--"Could I be getting Alzheimer's Dementia?" "Is there anything I can do to prevent it? I have written a previous article in this series about the difference between mild, normal cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. Here let's address the question of what, if anything, can you do to prevent Alzheimer's, if you're worried about. Fortunately there's been some good news recently.
"Recent epidemiologic, cohort, and clinical-trail data support a role for physical activity in maintaining cognitive health. To assess the effect of physical activity on cognition in the setting of cerebrovascular disease, researchers conducted a retrospective subgroup analysis of more than 2800 female health professionals over the age of 65 with at least 3 vascular risk factors (e.g., diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, body-mass index > 30, family history of premature myocardial infarction). Participants reported mean one-year physical activity levels a mean of 3.5 years before an initial global cognitive evaluation. The cognitive evaluation was conducted via telephone; 81% of the respondents completed at least 3 assessments at 2-year intervals....Women in the two highest quintiles of physical activity level--equivalent to brisk walking > 30 minutes daily--had significantly slower rates of cognitive decline than those in the lowest quintile. When the data were compared to an analysis of age-associated cognitive decline, participants in the 2 highest quintiles of physical activity were cognitively 5 to 7 years 'younger' than those in the lowest quintile. A secondary analysis specific to walking showed a possible threshold effect, with at least 30 minutes of brisk daily walking required for significant cognitive benefit.
[Arch Intern Med 2011; 171:1251; abstracted in J Watch Specialties Neurology Aug 2, 2011]
COMMENT: Remember the old healthy lifestyle program--the Formula for Health. It works for everything, at every age. Try it! Each of the 5 steps is directly good for preserving mental function and health. There's nothing better.