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The power of physical activity for reducing dementia risk at mid-life.

It never ceases to amaze me that many of my colleagues in the health and care sciences spend so much time talking and writing about palliative care and medical management. All the while, many seem to ignore the power of lifestyle behavior for reducing chronic disease risk, including risk of common forms of dementia. Perhaps unsurprisingly many of those who work in such research fields seldom model good health behaviors themselves (smoking, overweight, inactivity, poor stress management and a slew of other risk factors are more prevalent in academia than I care to admit). In the abstract and link below, I set out the case for a greater focus on physical activity interventions at mid life as a mechanism for reducing dementia risk. Importantly, changes in behavior need to be initiated well before the onset of dementia and there should be more meaningful engagement of general practitioners and allied health professionals to provide education and support. It's not an easy path, but it is perhaps the most promising.

Prescribing physical activity as a preventive measure for middle aged Australians with dementia risk factors.

Abstract: Dementia is increasing in Australia in line with population ageing and is expected to peak by mid-century. The development of common forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is associated with lifestyle-related risk factors that are prevalent among middle-aged Australians, including obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression. These risk factors can be significantly ameliorated through regular participation in moderate aerobic physical activity (PA). Current national and international guidelines recommend at least 150 min of aerobic PA per week for achieving health protective effects. Lifestyle intervention is a critical area for action as there are currently no medical or pharmaceutical interventions that can halt the progression of common dementias. Physician–patient discussions concerning risk reduction via habitual aerobic PA offers a complementary intervention as part of broader dementia management. Evidence suggests that to achieve the highest rates of adherence to PA, physician advice in primary care should be supported by wider policies, institutions and community services that offer a meaningful referral pathway and patient follow up after initial assessment. International Green Prescription programs provide examples of physician-led interventions in primary care that could inform further action in Australia.

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