Couch Potato Lifestyle May Increase Alzheimer’s Risk


Dementia generally occurs in those who are already predisposed to the condition, but recent findings show that a sedentary lifestyle can cause dementia in those without any previous predisposition.

A study performed by McMaster University and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has shown that individuals who partake in a sedentary lifestyle may actually be just as likely to develop dementia later in life as those who have a genetic predisposition.

Credit: Rafael Castillo/Flickr, CC BY-2.0

According to the World Health Organization, 47.5 million people worldwide currently suffer from dementia. Additionally, sedentary jobs have increased by more than 80 percent since 1960. As this type of lifestyle increases, cases of dementia are also expected to increase due to this discovery from McMaster University. By 2050, there are expected to be over 115 million people living with dementia.

By following the health and aging of more than 1,600 Canadian participants over the past five years, researchers found a direct correlation between the activity levels of the participants and the likelihood that they could develop dementia as they advanced in age.

Genetically predisposed people carry a gene called apolipoprotein E, which can lead to developing dementia later in life. However, inactivity dramatically increased the risk of dementia in those participants who did not have the apolipoprotein E genotype.

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With no known cure for dementia, and the shocking increase that is expected to occur over the next 40 years, there must be a way to prevent or take measure against this.

Jennifer Heisz, co-author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, shared her thoughts on the subject.

“Given that most individuals are not at genetic risk, physical exercise may be an effective prevention strategy… The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes,” she stated.

Exercise has been known to have a host of benefits. It can promote bone, cardiovascular and mental health, as well as manage weight and increase muscle tone. The authors of the study recognize this, but have not yet found which type of exercise would be best to prescribe to an individual looking to prevent the onset of dementia.

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On the contrary, a sedentary lifestyle has been known to have a host of negative effects on otherwise healthy individuals. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer are amplified risks when someone leads a sedentary lifestyle. Exercising for just five minutes per hour can combat these effects, and regular exercise of 30 minutes or more per day is generally recommended by the American Heart Association.

While dementia often occurs in aging individuals, it is not a natural part of the aging process. It is important to take note of and partake in preventative measures, especially when it’s as easy as going for a walk and getting some exercise.