BEING fit and active in middle age cuts the risk of dementia by more than half, a study shows.
A good lifestyle and healthy heart also protects the brain in later life.
Experts assessed 7,900 Brits from the age of 50 for 25 years.
They found dementia rates for those with the worst fitness scores were 3.2 per 1,000 person years. But the risk fell to just 1.3 per 1,000 person years for those who had the best heart health — a drop of 59 per cent.
Researcher Séverine Sabia, from University College London, said: “This supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health.”
The study, published in The BMJ, looked at how well the Brits scored against the American Heart Association’s cardiovascular health measure.
Its seven categories are smoking, diet, exercise, BMI, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Those with the best scores also had bigger brains 20 years later.
Carol Brayne, of the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University, said: “The healthier the vascular system is in midlife, the lower the risk of subsequent dementia.”
Around 850,000 Brits have dementia. One in three cases is preventable with better lifestyle.
Dr Sara Imarisio, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The findings add to strong evidence that good heart health benefits the brain.”
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