admin - November 29, 2013
New advances in medical treatments and better understanding of preventative care through screening have increased Americans’ lifespans, but every year additional year merely brings us closer to possible dementia. This was the thinking until recent studies confirmed a simple, foolproof way to cut your risk for developing dementia by 50 percent. Is it an expensive new drug or a doctor-developed brain training Nintendo game? Actually, it’s something much more attainable and significantly cheaper: exercise.
The Costs of Dementia
According to projections by the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans with the degenerative condition will increase by 40 percent in the next 12 years. In 2010 alone, dementias (including Alzheimer’s) cost the nation’s families, insurers, and government $172 billion. As the population ages, those costs will only go up, with the figure ballooning to $1 trillion by 2050. Even worse than the financial expense is the impact on what should be one’s golden years; most baby boomers in America will spend their retirement struggling with Alzheimer’s or caring for a loved one who has it.
More Exercise = Bigger Brain
Fortunately, everyone can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia with simple physical activity. Complex stretching routines or strenuous weightlifting regimens are not required to gain the brain-protecting benefit, either. According to the study published earlier this year, the best results were obtained among subjects who did little more than brisk walking.
How exactly does physical exertion guard against dementia? The most important parts of the brain for complex thinking and forming memories are the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. While their deterioration is a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease, they are also linked to physical exercise. Greater fitness levels correlate with an increase in size among both areas. We often think of growing brains as limited to children and teenagers, but even previously sedentary subjects in their 60s and 70s saw an increase in brain volume when they began exercising for the study.
While the study clearly proved the benefits of walking, some questions remain unanswered. Do the gains in cognition and mood persist if the subject stops exercising? What is the minimum of activity needed and is there an upper limit of intensity and frequency after which there is no additional benefit for the brain? Subjects in the study walked 3 to 45 minutes each day, so that’s the best starting point for anyone interested in dementia prevention.
Find more resources on Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention from Life Line Screening now:
- 4 Benefits of Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Study: Atrial Fibrillation Could Show Signs of Early Dementia
- Top 10 Lifestyle Changes to Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
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