Best Way to Stave Off Dementia, Experts Say: Hit the Gym
Here at AgingOptions we review many, many articles and studies about dementia every year. That’s because afflictions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia tend to be the number one fear of many aging adults. Most of us have watched parents and other loved ones cope with this debilitating, destructive condition, and we ask ourselves, “What can I do to reduce my odds of being affected by dementia?”
Billions of dollars are being spent trying to find the answer to that question. While research is on-going concerning new drugs, new supplements, and new forms of treatment, here’s a straightforward article from the AARP that seems to share a promising solution, at least until some new yet-to-be-discovered cure appears. The single best way to keep dementia at bay, experts say, is exercise.
AARP puts it this way, according to the August 2016 issue of their Bulletin. Based on an AARP study from a few years ago, “Half of Americans believe activities such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles and computer games and mental tasks keep their brains healthy…but there is little evidence that they do.” Their article states, “If you really want to retain mental clarity and improve your odds of staving off dementia, researchers say, hit the gym.”
There are clear physiological reasons for this crystal-clear recommendation. The scientific and medical community over the past decade has gained a growing understanding of “the crucial relationship between exercise and brainpower,” says AARP. Exercise is increasingly being shown to have many of the same positive effects in the brain as it does in the body, with improved blood flow and reduced stress helping form new connections in the brain just as new muscle tissues are formed in the body. Studies are showing a more and more definitive connection between higher rates of exercise and lower rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
In one body of research being done at Northeastern University in Boston, men and women aged 50-80 who had been more or less sedentary were told to walk around a track 40 minutes a day, three times a week for six months. The size of each subject’s hippocampus – the area of our brains linked to memory – was measured before and after this exercise regimen and compared against a control group who did no exercise. In the group who exercised, each person’s hippocampus actually increased in size, a phenomenon that did not occur with the control group, suggesting a definitive link between physical activity and mental acuity. Another study tested 900 physically active adults with an average age of 71 and found that they “performed on a par with someone a decade younger on tests of memory and other brain skills.”
The results of increased physical activity can be dramatic and highly encouraging. For example, one UCLA study suggested that active seniors could reduce their risk of dementia by as much as 50 percent! When you add to this the psychological benefits of exercise – walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, just about anything – you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get off the couch, put down the remote, and get moving. Of course, you’ll want to check with your doctor (hopefully a geriatric physician) before you start an exercise program, and you’ll want to start gradually, but for the vast majority of adults the benefits of physical activity are promising indeed, especially when added to other lifestyle choices including better diet and more sociability.
Speaking of promising, we have an invitation for you that we think you’ll find both promising and encouraging. If you’re ready to establish a real plan for your retirement – not merely a few hopes and wishes scratched on a yellow pad but a carefully thought-out, comprehensive plan that can guide you into the future you’ve dreamed of – we offer you the ideal solution. We call it a LifePlan. Far too many so-called retirement plans are one-dimensional, dealing only with finances (and many of them don’t do a very good job at that). By contrast, a LifePlan covers not only your financial security but also your legal affairs, your housing options, your medical requirements, even communication with those closest to you so that they know and support your wishes. There’s no other retirement plan we know of that does all that!
Best of all, with the AgingOptions team as your guide, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Let us walk alongside you! If you wish to learn more, we invite you to attend a free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminar where in just a few hours you’ll gain deeper understanding of – and appreciation for – the LifePlanning process. Click on the Upcoming Events tab where you can register online, or call us during business hours. But don’t delay: these popular seminars fill up quickly. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon.
(originally reported at www.aarp.org)