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Exercise ‘may reduce dementia risk’

Exercise followed by a relaxing mug of tea might be a good tonic for the brain in old age, research suggests.

In two separate studies, US scientists found that physical activity and regular consumption of tea or coffee both protect against mental decline.

One team led by Dr Zaldy Tan, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, followed the progress of 1,200 elderly men and women with an average age of 76.

Health checks after an average of 10 years showed that those who engaged in moderate to heavy levels of exercise had a 40% lower risk of developing dementia than the least physically active.

The trend was more evident in men than in women, the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Hawaii was told.

Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Whether it be a round of golf, a brisk walk or a session on the treadmill, 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can be beneficial at any age. The best way to reduce your risk is to combine exercise with a healthy diet, not smoke, and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.”

The second study, also presented at the conference, suggested that a regular cup of tea or coffee can stave off age-related mental decline.

Scientists led by Professor Lenore Arab, from the University of California at Los Angeles, monitored 4,800 people aged over 65 for more than 14 years.

Participants who drank tea regularly were between 17% and 37% less likely to suffer a reduction in mental ability than non-tea drinkers.

People who preferred coffee were also protected. Drinking coffee more than five times a week lowered the chances of mental decline by 20%.

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