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Health Services Research & Development

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2006 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract


3095 — Are Physical and/or Cognitive Activity Associated with Cognitive Performance in Aging Men?

Author List:
Dubbert PM (G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center)
Mosley TH (University of Mississippi Medical Center)
Kirchner KA (G.V. (Sonny ) Montgomery VA Medical Center)

Objectives:
Recent studies suggest that physical activity and cognitive stimulation may protect against cognitive decline and dementia in aging adults, however, results remain inconclusive. Information about the types and intensity of activity and the effects of activity on specific cognitive domains has not been well characterized. We examined the association of physical and cognitive activities with measures of cognitive performance.

Methods:
126 male (aged 60-85) veteran primary care patients (with no history of stroke) completed the CHAMPS (40-item survey assessing frequency and time spent in physical and cognitive activities in the past month) following 5 months of falls prevention and health promotion intervention. Weekly energy expenditure in physical activity was estimated from the CHAMPS. Five months later, and without additional health promotion intervention, participants completed the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), Animal Naming Test (ANT), and the Trails A and B. Hierarchical regression was used to examine the associations between physical and cognitive activity and cognitive test performance five months later, controlling for age, education, race, tobacco use, and history of MI/CABG.

Results:
Higher levels of weekly physical energy expenditure predicted better performance on short delayed verbal recall (RAVLT; p < .01), verbal fluency (ANT; p<.05), and Trails A (p=.02). Partial correlations with the RAVLT total learning (p=.09) and long delayed recall (p=.07) did not reach significance, and there was no association of physical activity with performance on the DSST (p>.30) or Trails B (p>.70). Measures of cognitive activity did not predict performance on any of the cognitive tests after controlling for age and education.

Implications:
Physical but not cognitive activities predicted performance on several measures of cognitive function in aging men.

Impacts:
Although cross-sectional studies do not permit a causal inference, these results contribute to a growing body of evidence that physical activity may provide an important protective effect on specific cognitive functions that should be further evaluated with longitudinal or experimental designs.


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