Objectives: This study investigated the association between perceived physical fitness at midlife, changes in perceived fitness during the three decades from mid- to late life and dementia risk.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Cardiovascular risk factors, ageing and incidence of dementia (CAIDE) study.
Subjects: Subjects were selected from four independent, random samples of population-based cardiovascular surveys and were first examined in 1972, 1977, 1982 or 1987, when they were on average 50 years old. The CAIDE target population included 3559 individuals. A random sample of 2000 individuals still alive in 1997 was drawn for re-examinations (performed in 1998 and 2005-2008) that consisted of cognitive assessments, with 1511 subjects participating in at least one re-examination. Dementia diagnoses were also confirmed from national registers for the entire target population.
Main outcome measure: All-cause dementia.
Results: Poor physical fitness at midlife was associated with increased dementia risk in the entire target population [hazard ratio (HR), 1.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.1-2.0]. In participants, odds ratio (OR) was 2.0 (95% CI, 0.9-4.0). This association was significant in apolipoprotein E ε4 allele (APOEε4) noncarriers (OR, 4.3; 95% CI, 1.4-13.3), men (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1-3.0) and people with chronic conditions (HR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.3-6.6). A decline in fitness after midlife was also associated with dementia (OR, 3.0; 95% CI, 1.7-5.1), which was significant amongst both men and women and more pronounced in APOEε4 carriers (OR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.1-9.1).
Conclusions: Perceived poor physical fitness reflects a combination of biological and lifestyle-related factors that can increase dementia risk. A simple question about perceived physical fitness may reveal at-risk individuals who could benefit from preventive interventions.
Keywords: ageing; dementia; preventive medicine; public health; risk factors.
© 2014 The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine.