Dementia And Physical Activity (DAPA) trial of moderate to high intensity exercise training for people with dementia: randomised controlled trial

Objective To estimate the effect of a moderate to high intensity aerobic and strength exercise training programme on cognitive impairment and other outcomes in people with mild to moderate dementia.

Design Multicentre, pragmatic, investigator masked, randomised controlled trial.

Setting National Health Service primary care, community and memory services, dementia research registers, and voluntary sector providers in 15 English regions.

Participants 494 people with dementia: 329 were assigned to an aerobic and strength exercise programme and 165 were assigned to usual care. Random allocation was 2:1 in favour of the exercise arm.

Interventions Usual care plus four months of supervised exercise and support for ongoing physical activity, or usual care only. Interventions were delivered in community gym facilities and NHS premises.

Main outcome measures The primary outcome was score on the Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog) at 12 months. Secondary outcomes included activities of daily living, neuropsychiatric symptoms, health related quality of life, and carer quality of life and burden. Physical fitness (including the six minute walk test) was measured in the exercise arm during the intervention.

Results The average age of participants was 77 (SD 7.9) years and 301/494 (61%) were men. By 12 months the mean ADAS-cog score had increased to 25.2 (SD 12.3) in the exercise arm and 23.8 (SD 10.4) in the usual care arm (adjusted between group difference −1.4, 95% confidence interval −2.6 to −0.2, P=0.03). This indicates greater cognitive impairment in the exercise group, although the average difference is small and clinical relevance uncertain. No differences were found in secondary outcomes or preplanned subgroup analyses by dementia type (Alzheimer’s disease or other), severity of cognitive impairment, sex, and mobility. Compliance with exercise was good. Over 65% of participants (214/329) attended more than three quarters of scheduled sessions. Six minute walking distance improved over six weeks (mean change 18.1 m, 95% confidence interval 11.6 m to 24.6 m).

Conclusion A moderate to high intensity aerobic and strength exercise training programme does not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild to moderate dementia. The exercise training programme improved physical fitness, but there were no noticeable improvements in other clinical outcomes.

Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN10416500.

Reference: BMJ 2018;361:k1675


Anticholinergic drugs and risk of dementia: case-control study

Objectives To estimate the association between the duration and level of exposure to different classes of anticholinergic drugs and subsequent incident dementia.

Design Case-control study.

Setting General practices in the UK contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

Participants 40 770 patients aged 65-99 with a diagnosis of dementia between April 2006 and July 2015, and 283 933 controls without dementia.

Interventions Daily defined doses of anticholinergic drugs coded using the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden (ACB) scale, in total and grouped by subclass, prescribed 4-20 years before a diagnosis of dementia.

Main outcome measures Odds ratios for incident dementia, adjusted for a range of demographic and health related covariates.

Results 14 453 (35%) cases and 86 403 (30%) controls were prescribed at least one anticholinergic drug with an ACB score of 3 (definite anticholinergic activity) during the exposure period. The adjusted odds ratio for any anticholinergic drug with an ACB score of 3 was 1.11 (95% confidence interval 1.08 to 1.14). Dementia was associated with an increasing average ACB score. When considered by drug class, gastrointestinal drugs with an ACB score of 3 were not distinctively linked to dementia. The risk of dementia increased with greater exposure for antidepressant, urological, and antiparkinson drugs with an ACB score of 3. This result was also observed for exposure 15-20 years before a diagnosis.

Conclusions A robust association between some classes of anticholinergic drugs and future dementia incidence was observed. This could be caused by a class specific effect, or by drugs being used for very early symptoms of dementia. Future research should examine anticholinergic drug classes as opposed to anticholinergic effects intrinsically or summing scales for anticholinergic exposure.

Trial registration Registered to the European Union electronic Register of Post-Authorisation Studies EUPAS8705.

Reference: BMJ 2018;361:k1315

Physical activity, cognitive decline, and risk of dementia: 28 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study

Objective To test the hypotheses that physical activity in midlife is not associated with a reduced risk of dementia and that the preclinical phase of dementia is characterised by a decline in physical activity.

Design Prospective cohort study with a mean follow-up of 27 years.

Setting Civil service departments in London (Whitehall II study).

Participants 10 308 participants aged 35-55 years at study inception (1985-88). Exposures included time spent in mild, moderate to vigorous, and total physical activity assessed seven times between 1985 and 2013 and categorised as “recommended” if duration of moderate to vigorous physical activity was 2.5 hours/week or more.

Main outcome measures A battery of cognitive tests was administered up to four times from 1997 to 2013, and incident dementia cases (n=329) were identified through linkage to hospital, mental health services, and mortality registers until 2015.

Results Mixed effects models showed no association between physical activity and subsequent 15 year cognitive decline. Similarly, Cox regression showed no association between physical activity and risk of dementia over an average 27 year follow-up (hazard ratio in the “recommended” physical activity category 1.00, 95% confidence interval 0.80 to 1.24). For trajectories of hours/week of total, mild, and moderate to vigorous physical activity in people with dementia compared with those without dementia (all others), no differences were observed between 28 and 10 years before diagnosis of dementia. However, physical activity in people with dementia began to decline up to nine years before diagnosis (difference in moderate to vigorous physical activity −0.39 hours/week; P=0.05), and the difference became more pronounced (−1.03 hours/week; P=0.005) at diagnosis.

Conclusion This study found no evidence of a neuroprotective effect of physical activity. Previous findings showing a lower risk of dementia in physically active people may be attributable to reverse causation—that is, due to a decline in physical activity levels in the preclinical phase of dementia.

Reference: BMJ 2017;357:j2709

Effectiveness of a 6-year multidomain vascular care intervention to prevent dementia (preDIVA): a cluster-randomised controlled trial


Cardiovascular risk factors are associated with an increased risk of dementia. We assessed whether a multidomain intervention targeting these factors can prevent dementia in a population of community-dwelling older people.


In this open-label, cluster-randomised controlled trial, we recruited individuals aged 70–78 years through participating general practices in the Netherlands. General practices within each health-care centre were randomly assigned (1:1), via a computer-generated randomisation sequence, to either a 6-year nurse-led, multidomain cardiovascular intervention or control (usual care). The primary outcomes were cumulative incidence of dementia and disability score (Academic Medical Center Linear Disability Score [ALDS]) at 6 years of follow-up. The main secondary outcomes were incident cardiovascular disease and mortality. Outcome assessors were masked to group assignment. Analyses included all participants with available outcome data. This trial is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN29711771.


Between June 7, 2006, and March 12, 2009, 116 general practices (3526 participants) within 26 health-care centres were recruited and randomly assigned: 63 (1890 participants) were assigned to the intervention group and 53 (1636 participants) to the control group. Primary outcome data were obtained for 3454 (98%) participants; median follow-up was 6·7 years (21 341 person-years). Dementia developed in 121 (7%) of 1853 participants in the intervention group and in 112 (7%) of 1601 participants in the control group (hazard ratio [HR] 0·92, 95% CI 0·71–1·19; p=0·54). Mean ALDS scores measured during follow-up did not differ between groups (85·7 [SD 6·8] in the intervention group and 85·7 [7·1] in the control group; adjusted mean difference −0·02, 95% CI −0·38 to 0·42; p=0·93). 309 (16%) of 1885 participants died in the intervention group, compared with 269 (16%) of 1634 participants in the control group (HR 0·98, 95% CI 0·80–1·18; p=0·81). Incident cardiovascular disease did not differ between groups (273 [19%] of 1469 participants in the intervention group and 228 [17%] of 1307 participants in the control group; HR 1·06, 95% CI 0·86–1·31; p=0·57).


A nurse-led, multidomain intervention did not result in a reduced incidence of all-cause dementia in an unselected population of older people. This absence of effect might have been caused by modest baseline cardiovascular risks and high standards of usual care. Future studies should assess the efficacy of such interventions in selected populations.


Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; Dutch Innovation Fund of Collaborative Health Insurances; and Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development.

The Lancet, Volume 388, No. 10046, p797–805, 20 August 2016

Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study


The prevalence of dementia is expected to soar as the average life expectancy increases, but recent estimates suggest that the age-specific incidence of dementia is declining in high-income countries. Temporal trends are best derived through continuous monitoring of a population over a long period with the use of consistent diagnostic criteria. We describe temporal trends in the incidence of dementia over three decades among participants in the Framingham Heart Study.


Participants in the Framingham Heart Study have been under surveillance for incident dementia since 1975. In this analysis, which included 5205 persons 60 years of age or older, we used Cox proportional-hazards models adjusted for age and sex to determine the 5-year incidence of dementia during each of four epochs. We also explored the interactions between epoch and age, sex, apolipoprotein E ε4 status, and educational level, and we examined the effects of these interactions, as well as the effects of vascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease, on temporal trends.


The 5-year age- and sex-adjusted cumulative hazard rates for dementia were 3.6 per 100 persons during the first epoch (late 1970s and early 1980s), 2.8 per 100 persons during the second epoch (late 1980s and early 1990s), 2.2 per 100 persons during the third epoch (late 1990s and early 2000s), and 2.0 per 100 persons during the fourth epoch (late 2000s and early 2010s). Relative to the incidence during the first epoch, the incidence declined by 22%, 38%, and 44% during the second, third, and fourth epochs, respectively. This risk reduction was observed only among persons who had at least a high school diploma (hazard ratio, 0.77; 95% confidence interval, 0.67 to 0.88). The prevalence of most vascular risk factors (except obesity and diabetes) and the risk of dementia associated with stroke, atrial fibrillation, or heart failure have decreased over time, but none of these trends completely explain the decrease in the incidence of dementia.


Among participants in the Framingham Heart Study, the incidence of dementia has declined over the course of three decades. The factors contributing to this decline have not been completely identified. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.)

By Claudia L. Satizabal et al, N Engl J Med 2016; 374:523-532

Benzodiazepine use and risk of incident dementia or cognitive decline: prospective population based study

Objective To determine whether higher cumulative use of benzodiazepines is associated with a higher risk of dementia or more rapid cognitive decline.

Design Prospective population based cohort.

Setting Integrated healthcare delivery system, Seattle, Washington.

Participants 3434 participants aged ≥65 without dementia at study entry. There were two rounds of recruitment (1994-96 and 2000-03) followed by continuous enrollment beginning in 2004.

Main outcomes measures The cognitive abilities screening instrument (CASI) was administered every two years to screen for dementia and was used to examine cognitive trajectory. Incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were determined with standard diagnostic criteria. Benzodiazepine exposure was defined from computerized pharmacy data and consisted of the total standardized daily doses (TSDDs) dispensed over a 10 year period (a rolling window that moved forward in time during follow-up). The most recent year was excluded because of possible use for prodromal symptoms. Multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were used to examine time varying use of benzodiazepine and dementia risk. Analyses of cognitive trajectory used linear regression models with generalized estimating equations.

Results Over a mean follow-up of 7.3 years, 797 participants (23.2%) developed dementia, of whom 637 developed Alzheimer’s disease. For dementia, the adjusted hazard ratios associated with cumulative benzodiazepine use compared with non-use were 1.25 (95% confidence interval 1.03 to 1.51) for 1-30 TSDDs; 1.31 (1.00 to 1.71) for 31-120 TSDDs; and 1.07 (0.82 to 1.39) for ≥121 TSDDs. Results were similar for Alzheimer’s disease. Higher benzodiazepine use was not associated with more rapid cognitive decline.

Conclusion The risk of dementia is slightly higher in people with minimal exposure to benzodiazepines but not with the highest level of exposure. These results do not support a causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia.

By Shelly L Gray et al, BMJ 2016;352:i90