Teens with Low IQ may be at Increased Risk for Early-Onset Dementia

First Posted: Mar 10, 2014 10:20 AM EDT

A recent study involving data from 1.1 million young Swedish men shows that those with poorer cardiovascular health and/or lower IQs during their teenage years could be more likely to suffer from early-onset dementia.

"Previous studies have shown the correlation between cardiovascular fitness and the risk of dementia in old age. Now, for the first time, we can show that the increased risk also applies to early-onset dementia and its precursors," said Sahlgrenska Academy researcher Jenny Nyberg, who headed the study, via a press release.

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy of Gothenburg University analyzed Swedish men's conscription results and were able to determine a correlation between cardiovascular fitness as a teenager and other health issues later in life. In fact, findings showed that those who had poorer cardiovascular fitness were 2.5 times more likely to develop early-onset dementia later in life. For those with lower IQs, they were entailed to a 4 times greater risk. The combination fared even worse. Those with poor cardiovascular fitness and low IQ were at a 7 times greater risk of early-onset dementia-a risk that remained even when other risk factors, including medical history, heredity, and social-economic circumstances-were controlled.

"We already knew that physical and cognitive exercise reduces the risk of neurological disease. Physical exercise increases nerve cell complexity and function and even generation of new nerve cells in the adult brain, which strengthens our mental and physiological functions. In other words, good cardiovascular fitness makes the brain more resistant to damage and disease," said Prof. Georg Kuhn, senior author of the study, via the release.

Researchers note that many who develop early-onset dementia may often have over-looked symptoms.  

"This makes it important to initiate more research into how physical and mental exercise can affect the prevalence of different types of dementia. Perhaps exercise can be used as both a prophylactic and a treatment for those in the risk zone for early-onset dementia," Nyberg added.

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More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Brain

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