A study by researchers from McMaster University says inactive adults with no genetic risk factors for dementia may be just as likely to develop the disease as those who are genetically predisposed.
As of right now 564 000 Canadians suffer from the disease that can cause memory loss, behavioural changes and an inability for rational thought. And in 15 years that number is expected to increase by another two-thirds as the baby boomers get older.
“The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes,” says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and co-author of the study.
The study followed more than 1,600 Canadians over a five year span and found that while carriers of a variant of the ‘apolipoprotein E’ genotype are more likely to develop dementia, inactivity in older adults dramatically increases the risk for non-carriers.
“A physically active lifestyle helps the brain operate more effectively. However, if a physician were to ask us today what type of exercise to prescribe for a patient to reduce the risk of dementia, the honest answer is ‘we really don’t know’,” says Barbara Fenesi, a postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University and lead author on the study.
Dr. Larry Chambers from the Alzheimer Society of Canada says a private member’s bill calling for the development of a national dementia strategy is heading into it’s third reading in parliament. The bill calls on all levels of government to work together to coordinate research and improve care.