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This article was published in September 2013. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Exercise curbs epilepsy in men

9 Sep 2013

The case for keeping fit continues to gather pace. Now it’s been extended to cover helping to ward off developing epilepsy in later life – if you’re a man.

A new Swedish study shows that young men with a fit heart showed a lower risk of developing epilepsy later in life.

The team behind the study are based at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and headed by Dr Elinor Ben-Menachem. They looked at 1.17m young Swedish men who joined the army at 18. At that point, they were required to undergo a test to measure their fitness.

These men were then monitored for an average of 25 years. During that time 6,796 of them developed epilepsy. The men with higher fitness levels at the age of 18 were 79 per cent less likely to develop epilepsy than those with low fitness levels. They were also 36 per cent less likely to develop epilepsy even than men with medium fitness levels.

The risks of developing epilepsy were slightly reduced when the research team adjusted for factors including inherited epilepsy and histories of head injury, stroke or diabetes. The full study findings were published in an online edition of Neurology on 4 September.

In a press release, Dr Ben-Menachem said: “There are a host of ways exercise has been shown to benefit the brain and reduce the risk of brain diseases…

“Exercise may affect epilepsy in two ways. It may protect the brain and create stronger brain reserve or it may simply be that people who are fit early in life tend to also be fit later in life, which in turn affects disease risk.”

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