Objective: Higher levels of physical activity (PA) reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Using longitudinal data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, we examined whether PA predicted plasma Aβ levels and risk for cognitive decline 9-13 years later.
Methods: Linear and logistic regressions (controlling for APOE status, age, gender, body mass index, cardiovascular disease, brain white matter lesions, and cystatin C levels) tested associations between PA, Aβ, and cognitive impairment in a sample of 149 cognitively normal older adults (mean age 83 years).
Results: More PA at baseline predicted lower levels of Aβ 9-13 years later. Higher Aβ levels at year 9 predicted greater risk for cognitive impairment at year 13. Levels of Aβ at year 9 mediated the relationship between PA and cognitive impairment.
Interpretation: Greater PA may reduce plasma levels of a neurotoxic peptide at an age when the risk for cognitive impairment is especially high.