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Women with a high level of cardiovascular fitness at midlife may have a reduced risk for dementia years later, a Neurology study suggests.
Nearly 200 Swedish women aged 38 to 60 underwent a cycling test that measured cardiovascular fitness based on maximal exertion capacity. They were then followed for an average of 29 years, during which 23% were diagnosed with dementia (at a mean age of 80) using objective assessments that included repeated neuropsychiatric evaluations.
Compared with women who had medium cardiovascular fitness at baseline, those with high fitness levels had an 88% lower risk for dementia during follow-up. Additionally, those with high fitness were about 11 years older when they developed dementia, relative to medium-fitness women.
The researchers write, “Improved cardiovascular fitness in midlife might be a modifiable factor to delay or prevent dementia. Findings are not causal, and future research needs to focus on whether improved fitness could have positive effects on dementia risk.”