HealthDay News — Poor cardiovascular (CV) fitness and greater exercise blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) responses in middle age correlate with smaller brain volume later in life, according to a study published online in Neurology.

Nicole L. Spartano, PhD, from The Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues examined data from 1094 Framingham Offspring participants free from dementia and CV disease who underwent an exercise treadmill test at a mean age of 40 ± 9 years. Two decades later, at a mean age of 58 ± 8 years, participants underwent a second treadmill test and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

In multivariable adjusted models, the researchers found that there was a correlation for poor CV fitness and greater diastolic BP and HR response to exercise at baseline with a smaller total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) almost two decades later (all P < 0.05). The effect of one standard deviation lower fitness was comparable to that of about one additional year of aging in CV disease-free individuals. Exercise systolic BP correlated with smaller TCBV in individuals with prehypertension or hypertension at baseline (P < 0.05).

“Our results suggest that lower CV fitness and exaggerated exercise BP and HR responses in middle-aged adults are associated with smaller brain volume nearly two decades later,” the authors write.


Spartano NL, et al. Midlife exercise blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness relate to brain volume 2 decades later. 2016; 10.​1212/​WNL.​0000000000002415.