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Physical Activity May Lower Vascular Dementia Risk

But similar association not observed for Alzheimer's disease, study reports

THURSDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly individuals who are physically active appear to have a reduced risk of developing vascular dementia, while the risk of Alzheimer's disease may be unchanged, according to an article published online Dec. 19 in Neurology.

Giovanni Ravaglia, M.D., of University Hospital S. Orsola-Malpighi in Bologna, Italy, and colleagues followed a population-based sample of 749 Italian adults aged 65 and older without evidence of dementia on initial extensive screening, to investigate the association between physical activity and risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. The researchers used a questionnaire to gather information about physical activity habits at baseline.

Over nearly four years of follow-up, 54 subjects developed Alzheimer's disease and 27 developed vascular dementia. After adjustment for demographic and medical confounding factors, higher levels of energy expenditure in walking, physical activity other than walking and total physical activity were associated with a decreased risk of vascular dementia. No association was noted between measures of physical activity and risk of Alzheimer's disease, however.

With regard to the lack of observed association between physical activity and risk of Alzheimer's disease, the authors comment, "because of the width of the confidence intervals for Alzheimer's disease found in [this] study, it cannot be excluded that significant results for this dementia subtype may have been missed by lack of statistical power. Therefore, we caution the reader against concluding that this study provides definite evidence that Alzheimer's disease is not preventable through exercise."

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