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Study Reveals Link Between Sitting and Dementia

A man is shown still-shot, posing next to stop-motion shots of himself to the left and to the right.
Source: Canva

Two separate studies published in General Psychiatry and JAMA have identified key areas of knowledge in the treatment and management of dementia.

General Psychiatry found data that indicates that telomere shortening that occurs in your chromosomes can contribute to dementia, and JAMA found that sitting could be, too. Here’s what we know.

Before we dig into the research, we have to clinically define dementia as we know it today. “Dementia” is an umbrella term that defines a lowered level of neurological function. This decline is generally caused by changes to the brain, either from damage or internal inflammation. Alzheimer’s disease is considered a form of dementia, by this definition.

The effects of dementia are individualized and can disrupt an individual’s life. People with dementia may fail to remember their loved ones, and they may experience disorientation, memory loss, confusion, and rapid mood changes.

Doctors and organizations have been committed to finding therapies that support patients with the condition since it was first discovered in 1906.

Today, we know that two things can affect its prevalence and formation in the human body: The length of our chromosomal telomeres and how frequently we sit throughout the day.

Telomeres act like “hats” for one’s chromosomes and dictate the speed and decline of our cellular function. They contribute largely to our aging process. Lifestyle factors can affect this shortening, such as stress or pollution exposure. General Psychiatry‘s recent findings have linked this shortening to dementia directly.

Additionally, JAMA found that sedentary behavior (specifically sitting) can contribute to dementia formation. The study found that those over the age of 60 who engaged in a sedentary lifestyle for at least 10 hours a day were at a 63% higher dementia risk compared to those who were more active.

This generally prompts the question: What does sedentary mean, exactly? And does my lifestyle fall into that category?

For the study’s purposes, the authors defined “sedentary” as any behavior done while awake that resulted in “low energy expenditure while in a sitting or reclining posture” (via MSN).

The authors went on to confirm to Newseek that the risk increased rapidly after the 10-hour threshold, regardless of whether the time was spent consecutively or in a segmented way. They also noted the clear divide that separated the two test groups, showing a significantly declined risk in the group that had less sedentary time overall.

This revelation could support citizens worldwide in living healthier lives, possibly dispelling the theory that the office workday should be broken up with standing breaks. While these breaks can support one’s circulation and posture, they don’t necessarily lower dementia risk if sedentary lifestyle time exceeds the 10-hour threshold.

The authors concluded the findings, noting that additional research was needed to confirm why these lifestyle elements were so strongly correlated to dementia occurrence.


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