Observed physical function is associated with better cognition among elderly adults
The Adventist Health Study-2
Gatto, N. M., Garcia-Cano, J., Irani, C., Liu, T., Arakaki, C., Fraser, G., Wang, C., & Lee, G. J. (2020). Observed physical function is associated with better cognition among elderly adults: The Adventist Health Study-2. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias, 35, 1533317520960868. Article 1533317520960868. https://doi.org/10.1177/1533317520960868
Lifestyle factors may individually protect against the development of mild cognitive impairment. We investigate the relationships between both self-reported physical activity and measured physical function with cognition in a population of elderly adults, more than half of whom follow vegetarian dietary patterns. Otherwise healthy adults (n = 127, mean age 74.9 ± 7.9 years, 61.3% current vegetarians) were assessed using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. A principal components analysis derived processing speed, executive function, and memory/language factors. Participants reported current levels of vigorous physical activity on questionnaires, and physical function and mobility were measured with the Physical Performance Test (PPT) and Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test. Generalized linear models estimated β coefficients for cross-sectional associations between cognitive factors and indicators of physical abilities and self-reported physical activity. Better physical function indicated by PPT was associated with higher scores on the processing speed factor (β = 0.21 SDs for each 4.4-point increase in PPT score; p = 0.02). Faster TUG times were also associated with higher processing speed factor scores (β = 0.21 SDs increase for each 2.8 second less TUG time; p = 0.02). Self-reported levels of vigorous physical activity were not associated with any area of cognitive function; the association between PPT, TUG and processing speed was independent of physical activity. Associations between PPT and TUG and processing speed were stronger among participants who followed vegetarian dietary patterns. Better physical function may have an effect on cognition in a context of healthy lifestyles.