Stay Fit to Stay Smart?

Researchers in Toronto published the results of a study this month which looked at the association between cardiopulmonary fitness and cognitive performance in subjects with coronary artery disease. To provide some background, both cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors have been associated with cognitive decline.  These cognitive changes can also include a risk of developing dementia.

Study Design:

The study itself included 81 patients with coronary artery disease.  To measure cardiopulmonary fitness, the researchers used peak oxygen uptake (VO2 Peak) during a standardized exercise stress test.  They used a battery of neuropsychological tests to asses cognitive performance including the Stroop, Mini-Mental State Examination, and the California Verbal Learning Test 2nd edition, among others.

Study Conclusions:

“Poorer VO(2Peak) is associated with poorer cognition, particularly executive function, in subjects with CAD independent of other cardiac risk factors. Cardiopulmonary fitness may be a protective factor for cognition in patients with CAD.”

Executive functions are higher cortical functions including decision-making, planning, and abstract thinking.  These are particularly likely to be impaired in patients with dementia.  Again, the results of this study suggest that cardiopulmonary fitness may be a protective factor which preserves cognition in patients with coronary artery disease.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for yet another excuse to live a healthy active lifestyle, numerous studies suggest that there are beneficial effects of physical activity on cognitive function.   Previous research found a link between abdominal obesity and brain volume.


  1. Swardfager W, Herrmann N, Marzolini S, Saleem M, Kiss A, Shammi P, Oh PI, Lanctôt KL. Cardiopulmonary Fitness Is Associated with Cognitive Performance in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Jul 14.

5 thoughts on “Stay Fit to Stay Smart?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.