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After age 90, physical activity helps cognitive levels
Monday November 19, 2012


Poor physical performance on activities including walking was associated with increased odds of dementia in a study of individuals ages 90 and older, according to a study.

Individuals 90 and older are a unique segment of society that has not been well studied, the researchers noted in background information for the study, which appeared Oct. 22 on the website of the Archives of Neurology. Previous studies have suggested a relationship between poor physical performance and cognitive impairment in the younger elderly populations.

The study conducted by Szofia S. Bullain, MD, and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine, involved 629 participants from the 90+ Study on aging and dementia performed at the university from January 2003 through November 2009. The average age of participants was 94 years, and 72.5% were women.

"Our cross-sectional study found a strong dose-dependent association between poor physical performance and dementia in the oldest old, with higher odds of dementia associated with poorer physical performance," the authors wrote.

"The results reveal that even modest declines in physical performance are associated with increased odds of dementia. The strongest association is seen with gait slowing, followed by five chair stands, grip strength and standing balance."

Participants who were unable to walk "were almost 30 times more likely to have dementia than people with the fastest walking time." Even a difference of 1.5 seconds in walking speed was associated with a fourfold greater odds of dementia.

"Similar to younger elderly populations, our study found that poor physical performance is associated with increased odds of dementia in the oldest old," the authors wrote. "The establishment of this association may serve as a major stepping stone to further investigate whether poor physical performance is in the causal pathway and a potentially modifiable risk factor for late-age dementia."

The study abstract is available at

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Monday November 19, 2012
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