There is a lot of media attention to the supposed ‘common ailments of aging’ – heart disease, diabetes or cancer, but little is spoken about dementia or Alzheimer’s. Maybe it’s because it’s not so talked about – I mean cancer is scary enough, but the dread of losing one’s mind is pretty mind blowing [excuse the pun].
So let’s take a quick look at what we can do to help prevent brain-related aging, if your family has a history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and what will help slow cognitive decline.
A Recent study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, built upon findings of previous studies that had previously investigated the link between physical fitness and brain function. Conducting MRI brain scans and treadmill tests showed a significant link between physical fitness and greater volume of the hippocampus. Volume is a vital sign for the brain. It decreases as brain cells die. The hippocampus is the area of your brain that stores memory. It tends to atrophy with age and deteriorates with onset of Alzheimer’s. Subjects with poor fitness levels showed more pronounced signs of hippocampal atrophy. The study conducted two scans across 400 older adults approximately 10 years apart.
So how much exercise is needed? It’s actually not that much. Just walking 5miles [8km] a week is enough to protect the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and [mild cognitive impairment] MCI. This was particularly apparent in the brain’s key memory and learning centres.
Patients already showing signs of such illnesses, who walked five miles per week, showed slower decline in memory loss over five years. Examination scores dropped an average of five points over five years among physically inactive patients, compared to only one point [on average] for physically active patients.
Dementia-free subjects who walked at least six miles per week maintained normal brain volume and significantly reduced their risk of cognitive decline.
So rather than thinking it’s crazy to be out walking in rough weather – just think how crazy you might become if you don’t.