WEDNESDAY, Dec. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Among older adults who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and cognitive impairments with no dementia (CIND), cognitive function was better at one-year follow-up in participants compared with controls after a six-month exercise intervention, with or without the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, according to a study published online Nov. 22 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

James A. Blumenthal, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues evaluated the longer-term changes in executive functioning among 160 participants with CVD risk factors and CIND. Participants (≥55 years) were randomly assigned to six months of aerobic exercise (AE); DASH diet counseling; combined AE + DASH; or health education (HE; controls). Follow-up occurred through one year.

The researchers found that despite discontinuation of lifestyle changes, participants in the exercise groups retained better executive function at one year than those in nonexercise groups; a similar, but nonsignificant, difference was observed in the DASH versus non-DASH groups. Greater sustained improvements in six-minute walk distance were seen in the exercise groups versus the nonexercise participants. Compared with the non-DASH groups, the DASH groups showed lower CVD risk; there were no differences in CVD risk for the exercise groups compared with the nonexercise groups. Compared with HE controls, the AE + DASH group had better performance on executive functioning and the Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes.

“The extent to which neurocognitive function can be improved with greater adherence to healthy eating plans and physical activity recommendations needs further study,” the authors write.

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