We think muscles and joints are the only areas of the body to be worn down by hard work are the muscles and joints but the truth is that the heart and brain still suffer. Recent research from the University of Copenhagen reveals that people who do hard physical work are 55 percent more likely than those who do sedentary work to develop dementia. The estimates were modified, among other factors, for lifestyle and lifetime variables.

The general opinion was that physical activity usually decreases the risk of dementia, just as another study recently conducted by the University of Copenhagenfound that a healthy lifestyle would decrease the risk of developing dementia disorders.

Here the form of physical activity is vital, though, says associate professor Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen from the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen.

"Before the study, we assumed that hard physical work was associated with a higher risk of dementia. It is something other studies have tried to prove, but ours is the first to connect the two things convincingly," says Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen, who has headed the study together with the National Research Centre for the Working Environment with help from Bispebjerg-Frederiksberg Hospital.

"For example, the WHO guide to preventing dementia and disease on the whole mention physical activity as an important factor. But our study suggests that it must be a 'good' form of physical activity, which hard physical work is not. Guides from the health authorities should therefore differentiate between physical activity in your spare time and physical activity at work, as there is reason to believe that the two forms of physical activity have opposite effects," Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen says and describes that even when smoking, blood pressure, overweight, alcohol consumption and physical activity are taken into account in one's free time, the increased incidence of dementia is correlated with hard physical work.

Professor MSO Andreas Holtermann from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment is one of the study's co-authors. He hopes that the University of Copenhagen's dementia research will help shed a spotlight on the importance of prevention, as brain changes begin well before the person leaves the labor market.

"A lot of workplaces have already taken steps to improve the health of their staff. The problem is that it is the most well-educated and resourceful part of the population that uses these initiatives. Those with a shorter education often struggle with overweight, pain, and poor physical fitness, even though they take more steps during the day and to a larger extent use their body as a tool. For workmen, it is not enough for example to avoid heavy lifts if they wish to remain in the profession until age 70. People with a shorter education doing manual labor also need to take preventive steps by strengthening the body's capacity via for example exercise and strength training," the doctor explains.

The analysis is focused on data from the Copenhagen Male Study (CMS), which included 4,721 Danish men who recorded data on the type of work they conducted on a regular basis back in the 1970s. 14 major companies based in Copenhagen were included in the report, the largest being DSB, Danish Defence, KTAS, Postal Services, and the City of Copenhagen.

Material Source: provided by the University of Copenhagen The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.