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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2012 May-Jun;54(3):e398-404. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Effect of leisure activities on inflammation and cognitive function in an aging sample.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of Rochester, Helen Wood Hall, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Cardiovascular disease risk factors (CVDRFs) increase the risk of dementia. The purpose of this study was to examine whether leisure activities (mental, physical, and social activities) modified the effect of CVDRFs on inflammatory markers and cognitive function in middle and old age. A secondary-data analysis study was conducted using data from 405 middle-age participants (40-59 years) and 342 old-age participants (60-84 years) who participated in the Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). CVDRFs were obtained from a combination of self-report medical history and blood-based biomarkers. Three CVDRF groups (≤1, 2, and ≥3 CVDRFs) were identified. More CVDRFs were significantly associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers in both age groups, and associated with lower levels of executive function (EF) in the old age group. CVDRFs were not related to the frequency of leisure activities in either age group. After controlling for covariates, higher levels of physical activities were significantly associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers, and higher levels of mental activities were associated with higher levels of cognitive function. In the old age group, physical activities also moderated the effect of CVDRFs on episodic memory (EM), and mental activities moderated the effect of CVDRFs on interleukin-6 (IL-6). Multiple CVDRFs may be associated with poorer cognitive function and higher inflammatory markers, but middle-age and older adults with CVDRFs may not engage in frequent physical and cognitive activities that may be protective. It is important to develop strategies to facilitate engagement in these activities from midlife.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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