Aerobic fitness in midlife correlates with less brain atrophy in late life.

This study supports the generalization to humans of several prior animal studies showing that exercise promotes neurotrophic factor production, which in turn tends to inhibit net brain cell loss.

Midlife exercise blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness relate to brain volume 2 decades later

  1. Sudha Seshadri, MD
  1. Published online before print February 10, 2016

ABSTRACT

Objective: To determine whether poor cardiovascular (CV) fitness and exaggerated exercise blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) were associated with worse brain morphology in later life.
Methods: Framingham Offspring participants (n = 1,094, 53.9% female) free from dementia and CV disease (CVD) underwent an exercise treadmill test at a mean age of 40 ± 9 years. A second treadmill test and MRI scans of the brain were administered 2 decades later at mean age of 58 ± 8 years.
Results: Poor CV fitness and greater diastolic BP and HR response to exercise at baseline were associated with a smaller total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) almost 2 decades later (all p < 0.05) in multivariable adjusted models; the effect of 1 SD lower fitness was equivalent to approximately 1 additional year of brain aging in individuals free of CVD. In participants with prehypertension or hypertension at baseline, exercise systolic BP was also associated with smaller TCBV (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that lower CV fitness and exaggerated exercise BP and HR responses in middle-aged adults are associated with smaller brain volume nearly 2 decades later. Promotion of midlife CV fitness may be an important step towards ensuring healthy brain aging.

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