New Study Shows Brain Training And Exercise Help Elderly Stall Mental Decline

A new study has determined that brain training and regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, can significantly slow mental decline in elderly patients at risk for dementia.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm conducting a study found that two years of brain training and lifestyle guidance for people between 60 and 77 years of age led to improvements in brain functioning – particularly in the areas of executive function and processing.

According to Reuters, previous research has shown a link between mental decline and diet and exercise habits. In fact, a recent Boston University School of Medicine study reported by the Inquisitr showed that starting an fitness training program in middle age could help prevent brain shrinkage and mental decline in old age. However, the Stockholm clinical trial was the first of its kind using a “control” and “treatment” group to determined results.

A part of the Finish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study, the trial involved 1,260 senior citizens in Finland, all of whom had been determined to be at risk for dementia. Half of the group was randomly selected to receive lifestyle intervention and the other half received advice but no direct intervention.

Over a two year period, the group receiving the intervention were provided with diet, strength training, and cardiovascular exercise programs by health care professionals. The participants met with them regularly to monitor progress and check risk factors, such as blood pressure and lipid levels. Treatment participants also engaged in regular brain training.

Yahoo! News reports that at the end of the study, the group who received the lifestyle intervention and brain training showed a much better results in cognitive examinations, including reasoning and brain processing speed, than the control group.

The scientists who conducted the study plan to do a follow up on the participants in seven years to assess their progress.

Dr. Doug Brown of the Alzheimer’s Society expressed cautious optimism about the study results in a statement published on the Society’s website.

“The message that you can preserve brain health through healthy living, exercise and keeping mentally active is a very positive one. As shown in this trial, giving people a helping hand with looking after their health in later life has a significant impact on several brain functions including attention and thought processing speed. This highlights the value of widespread initiatives to improve public health.”

“However, we need to learn more about how these healthy living choices can protect the brain in the longer term before we know for sure how they can ward off dementia. It will therefore be interesting to see the results of the planned follow-up after seven years to see if there are fewer cases of dementia among the study participants. In the meantime, the best evidence suggests that taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and not smoking is the best way for you to reduce your risk of dementia.”

[Image via Carsten Koall/Getty Images]