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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jan;43(1):181-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e6d478.

Regular physical activity moderates cardiometabolic risk in Alzheimer's caregivers.

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  • 1Division of Psychosomatic Medicine, Department of General Internal Medicine, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Switzerland.



Dementia caregivers have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and it is possible that metabolic disturbances contribute to this risk. Regular physical exercise reduces cardiometabolic risk, but caregivers may have less opportunity to engage in such activity. We hypothesized that regular physical activity would moderate cardiometabolic risk in dementia caregivers.


One hundred and fifteen Alzheimer's caregivers and 54 noncaregiving controls were assessed for medical history and health habits. Physical activity was defined as the number of days per week participants performed light (score = 0-4), moderate (score = 0-4), or vigorous (score = 0-4) exercise (total score = 0-12). A cardiometabolic risk score was calculated by adding standardized z-scores of five metabolic syndrome components: body mass index, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and glucose.


Caregivers were less physically active than noncaregivers (mean ± SD = 5.1 ± 3.0 vs 6.3 ± 2.7, P = 0.008). A significant caregiver status × physical activity interaction was found for the standardized cardiometabolic risk score controlling for gender, age, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, health problems, cholesterol-lowering medication, negative affect, role overload, and fasting state (P = 0.035). Among participants with low levels of physical activity, caregivers had greater cardiometabolic risk score than noncaregivers (0.58 ± 0.31 vs -1.23 ± 0.54, P = 0.017); no group difference emerged in participants with high levels of physical activity (P = 0.81).


Cardiometabolic risk was particularly high in caregivers reporting reduced levels of regular physical activity. Intervention studies aimed at increasing physical activity in caregivers seem warranted to examine whether that would possibly lower cardiometabolic risk to the level of noncaregivers.

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