Levels of Physical Activity
Linked to Vascular Dementia
Walking May Significantly
of Vascular Dementia
A recent study has shown that non-strenuous, regular physical
activity can substantially reduce the risk for vascular dementia
by more than 70%.
Vascular Dementia is a slow, progressive disease that reduces
memory and cognitive function, similar to Alzheimer's disease.
Interestingly, it's not necessary for people to engage in
strenuous activity. The researchers found that easy-to-perform,
moderate activities such as walking, stair climbing and
gardening actually provided as much brain benefit as themore
rigorous, physically demanding activities.
working at University Hospital S. Orsola Malpighi in
Bologna, Italy, analyzed data from the "Conselice Study of
Brain Aging" a
population-based study involving 749 men and women, ages 65 and
older. Conselice is a small, rural town in the
Emilia Romagna region in northern Italy. The
subjects were given an extensive cognitive assessment and
were found to be free of any form of dementia when the study
began. All of the participants but 23% reported walking for
exercise as part of their daily routine. Other moderate
intensity activities included house and yard work,
gardening, light carpentry and bicycling.
Four years later, the subjects had
follow-up testing for dementia. At that point 86 cases of
dementia were discovered, including 27 cases of vascular
dementia with brain infarction (tissue death) due to lack of
oxygen-rich blood, confirmed by a measurable neuro-imaging
process. Those people who engaged the most regularly in moderate
activity benefited the best when it came to retaining cognitive
Walking Was Associated with a 73% Risk Reduction for
Other moderate activities lowered
risk by 71% when comparing those who exercised most with
those who engaged in the activities the least.
Publishing their findings in the journal Neurology, the research
team wrote that while their study did not prove a causal link,
it was the first research to show a positive association between
regular moderate activity and reduction in risk for vascular
dementia. Their findings support other research studies that
have shown better cognitive performance in more active, older
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia
after Alzheimer's disease. The condition is not a single disease
but, rather, relates to various effects from chronic reduced
blood flow in the brain, eventually resulting in dementia.
A common problem of aging is the progressive change in blood
vessels (vasculature). Cholesterol and other substances often
accumulate in the blood-vessel walls, resulting in thickening
and hardening and, thus, restricting blood flow to various
regions of the brain.
When this occurs suddenly, the result is a stroke, but vascular
brain damage may also develop over time, from chronic lack of
oxygen. By definition, vascular dementia is characterized by a
slow but progressive worsening of memory and other cognitive
The researchers suggested that moderate exercise's cognitive
benefits could be multifaceted. Improved cerebral blood flow and
the reduction in cortisol and other "brain-toxic" stress
hormones have many protective benefits. Exercise may also be a
marker for a healthy lifestyle or even protect the brain, they
suggested, simply through the mental and social stimulation of
an active lifestyle.
University Hospital S. Orsola