Caution couch potatoes! Lack of fitness in middle age may mean a smaller brain in later years. According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, scientist uncovered a direct correlation between poor fitness and less brain volume years later. For this study, researchers had 1,583 people enrolled in the famed Framingham Heart Study take a treadmill test at an average age of 40 to accurately measure their level of fitness. Two decades later they conducted a second treadmill test as well as MRI brain scans on the same group of study subjects. The findings: For every eight units of lower exercise capacity (a measure of fitness) at midlife, brain volume was significantly smaller 20 years later, equivalent to two full years of accelerated aging.
Evidence has been steadily mounting over the past few years indicating that dementia develops over several decades with lifestyle habits and health status during middle age likely exerting the greatest impact.
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