Couch Potatoes: Increased Risk of Dementia?

Are you a couch potato?

Now there’s one more reason to exercise. Sedentary older adults with no genetic risk factors for dementia may be just as likely to develop the disease as those who are genetically predisposed, according to a major study that followed more than 1,600 Canadians over 5 years.

The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shed new light on the relationship among genes, lifestyle risk factors and dementia.

Researchers, who tracked participants in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, found that while carriers of a variant of the apolipoprotein E genotype are more likely to develop dementia, inactivity dramatically increases the risk for non-carriers.

The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes.

Given that most individuals are not at genetic risk, physical exercise may be an effective preventions strategy.

Approximately 47.5 million people worldwide are living with dementia. That number is expected to surge to 115.4 million by the year 2050. With no known cure, there is an urgent need to explore, identify and change lifestyle factors that can reduce dementia risk, say researchers.

Although age is an important marker for dementia, there is more and more research showing the link between genetic and lifestyle factors. This research shows that exercise can mitigate the risk of dementia for people without the variant of the apolipoprotein genotype. However, more research is needed to determine the implications from a public health perspective.

A physically active lifestyle helps the brain operate more effectively. However, if a physician were to ask us today what type of exercise to prescribe for a patient to reduce the risk of dementia, the honest answer is ‘we really don’t know.

For more information on how to not be a couch potato, contact Maurie Cofman, CMES, CES, TBMM-CES, Personal Trainer, Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Health Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist in the St. Louis, Brentwood, and Clayton, MO area.