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Older people who are living independently but have signs of cerebral damage may lower their risk of having progressive cognitive impairment or dementia if they remain physically active.

Ana Verdelho, from the University of Lisbon (Portugal), and colleagues involved in the LADIS (Leukoaraiosis and Disability) Study studied 638 men and women, average age 74.1 years, of whom 64 percent were considered physically active at baseline. Baseline MRI revealed the severity of white matter changes categorized as mild in 44 percent of subjects, moderate in 31 percent, and severe 25 percent. Participants were given neuropsychological tests annually for three years. A second MRI brain scan was given at the study’s conclusion, to evaluate the severity of white matter changes. The team found that physical activity associated with less progression to cognitive impairment or vascular dementia. However, physical activity was not found to be related to changes in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study authors conclude that: “Physical activity reduces the risk of cognitive impairment, mainly vascular dementia, in older people living independently.”


  1. Verdelho A, Madureira S, Ferro JM, Baezner H, Blahak C, Poggesi A, et al; on behalf of the LADIS Study. “Physical Activity Prevents Progression for Cognitive Impairment and Vascular Dementia: Results From the LADIS (Leukoaraiosis and Disability) Study.” Stroke. 2012 Dec;43(12):3331–5.