Exercise throughout a person’s life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, a study spanning 35 years has found. The Cardiff University study which began with 2,235 men from Caerphilly in 1979 found factors including diet and not smoking had an impact on preventing illnesses developing in older age. However exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels.
This week a G8 summit will hear dementia will affect 135m by 2050.
‘Really amazed us’
The research by Cardiff University found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were regular exercise, not smoking, low bodyweight, healthy diet and low alcohol intake. People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor. They also had 70% fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared with people who followed none of the factors.
Professor Peter Elwood, who led the study on behalf of Cardiff School of Medicine, said healthy behaviour was far more beneficial than any medical treatment or preventative procedure. “The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an ageing population,” he said. “Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is however the responsibility of the individual him or herself. Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle.”
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