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Sedentary lifestyle raises dementia risk in older adults, study warns


Dementia remains a significant global health concern, affecting more than 55 million people worldwide

Older adults who spend a significant amount of time sitting may face an increased risk of dementia, as revealed by a study published in the JAMA medical journal. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona, highlights the concerning link between sedentary behavior and dementia risk.

The research gathered data from nearly 50,000 adults aged 60 and older in the United Kingdom, none of whom had been diagnosed with dementia when the study commenced in 2013. These participants, with an average age of 67 and a 54 percent female representation, wore wrist accelerometers to monitor their levels of sedentary behavior. Follow-up analysis was conducted over an average period of 6.72 years.

The findings were striking. During this period, 414 subjects were diagnosed with “all-cause dementia.” The study discovered a significant nonlinear relationship between the time spent in sedentary behavior and the incidence of dementia.

“Of course, this is an observational study and we can’t determine whether these links are causal,” David Raichlen, a USC professor of biological sciences and anthropology and an author of the study, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “But with more and more evidence that sedentary behaviors are linked with adverse health outcomes, moving more and sitting less is a safe bet for improving health outcomes.”

Dr. Andrew E. Budson, Chief of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and author of “Seven Steps to Managing Your Aging Memory,” explained the significance of the findings. He pointed out that people living in “blue zones,” where individuals tend to have longer lifespans with reduced rates of dementia, typically engage in continuous physical activity throughout the day rather than short bursts of vigorous exercise.

Dr. Budson suggested that all individuals, particularly those in their 60s, 70s, and beyond, can take steps to lower their risk of developing dementia. He emphasized that it’s not merely about occasional activity; rather, it’s the total time spent being sedentary that matters. He recommended aiming to stay active for at least 7 out of the 16 waking hours each day to promote better cognitive health.

Dementia remains a significant global health concern, affecting more than 55 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization identifies various risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, social isolation, and depression. This study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that reducing sedentary behavior can contribute to improved health outcomes, particularly regarding dementia risk.

Also Read : High blood pressure in your 30s linked to dementia in 70s: study