Although exercise is associated with a lower risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), it is unclear whether its protective effect depends on the presence or absence of vascular factors.
In an exploratory study of data from a population-based cohort, 1254 participants aged 65+ years were followed for 10 years for incident MCI. The main effect of baseline total minutes of exercise per week (0 vs. 1 to 149 vs. 150+), and its interaction with several vascular factors, on risk for incident MCI was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models, adjusting for demographics.
Compared with no exercise, 1 to 149 minutes [hazard ratio (HR)=0.90; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 0.69-1.16] and 150 or more minutes per week (HR=0.84; 95% CI, 0.66-1.07) of exercise lowered risk for incident MCI in a dose-dependent manner. The majority of interactions were not statistically significant, but risk reduction effect sizes of<0.75 suggested that exercise may have stronger effects among those without high cholesterol, never smoking, and not currently consuming alcohol; also, those with arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, and heart failure. Overall, there was a pattern of exercise being associated with lower MCI risk among those without vascular factors.
Spending more time engaging in exercise each week may offer protection against MCI in late life, with some variation among those with different vascular conditions and risk factors. Our findings may help target subgroups for exercise recommendations and interventions, and also generate hypotheses to test regarding underlying mechanisms.