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660. Potential for primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease: an analysis of population-based data

Research Article
Sam Norton, Fiona E Matthews, Deborah E Barnes, Prof Kristine Yaffe, Prof Carol Brayne
November 2014

Commentary by Professor Adrian Bauman, Director, AusPAnet/GlobalPANet, The University of Sydney

This paper is an epidemiological review of the primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease. It is particularly interesting for two reasons. First it assesses the number of cases of Alzheimer's disease that are attributable to physical inactivity, and to other risk factors. The second reason is technical and methodological in that it adjusts the effects of each of these risk factors for the other, which is infrequently done in burden of disease studies, leading to overestimation of the number of cases of a given disease that are attributable to a risk factor.

The study identified seven risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, but the strongest one was physical inactivity. It had the highest relative risk or association with developing Alzheimer's disease, around 1.8, and also showed a high prevalence, with around one third of adults in developed countries being physically inactive. The population attributable risk for physical inactivity was around 20 to 22% for the development of Alzheimer's disease in Europe and North America, which was just under half of the overall preventable fraction. Even when adjusted for the interrelationships among risk factors, a third of Alzheimer's disease cases could be prevented, highlighting physical activity as a leading strategy in that primary prevention approach. This would mean around 10 million cases of Alzheimer's disease each year could be prevented if people adopted comprehensive and integrated healthy lifestyles, and perhaps just under half of these might be attributable to physical inactivity.

This important paper further synthesises the evidence that links physical inactivity to neuro-cognitive diseases, and extends our understanding of the benefits of physical activity well beyond noncommunicable diseases alone.    

Source: The Lancet Neurology, 13: 788 – 794. Access to this article will depend on your institutional rights. Click here for the full article.