Exercise has been found to reduce the risk of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, and 13 types of cancer, as reported this week by the Inquisitr, including esophageal, lung, and liver cancer, some of the deadliest cancers known to man. But studies show it has it another positive affect too: it staves off dementia.
Dementia is defined as a chronic state of not being lucid or in touch with reality in which one’s cognition and ability to make decisions is impaired. A common form of this is Alzheimer’s Disease, but it is not the only form of dementia. When one’s carotid arteries are filled with plaque and there’s not enough blood flow to the brain, this can be another common form of dementia. Other types are due to alcohol, drug, or idiopathic (unknown) causes.
With people living into their 80s, the chance of developing dementia is about one-in-four. It is one of the primary reasons that people are placed in residential living homes and are unable to care for themselves and accounts for a large part of Medicare’s funds. Fortunately, scientists are learning more about dementia all the time, including ways to treat it, as well as reduce the risk of ever being diagnosed with it.
According to WebMD, even a little bit of exercise can improve your memory and reduce your chances of developing dementia. A recent study shows that those who participate in no exercise have a 50 percent greater chance of developing Dementia. But what counts as exercise? Researchers said that those who experienced at least two hours a week of working up a light sweat — walking and household activities count — saw benefits of reduced risk of dementia. Those who worked out moderately-to-vigorously saw even more benefit, which researchers believe is due to not only less cardiovascular disease and less carotid plaque, but better control of brain chemicals including dopamine. Exercise also improves insulin resistance, which may stop a competition of metabolic processes and allow for clearer thinking.
Dr. Zaldy Tan, from the University of California, says that people should not be deterred by the word “exercise” and understand that even mild to moderate activity is of benefit in reducing dementia.
“It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to stave off the risk of dementia. Even moderate amounts are fine. The message here is that you’re never too old to exercise and gain benefit from it. These patients derive the most benefit from exercise because they are the ones who are at the age of greatest risk for dementia.”
Imaging scans show that people who exercise actually have better blood flow to the brain and their brain does not shrink as much as one would typically see with aging. Brain atrophy, or shrinkage of the brain, is common in people over the age of 75, but those who exercised regularly did not experience this to any significant degree, which may explain a large component of why they are not developing dementia. Dr. Malaz Boustani says this blood flow and lack of shrinkage is paramount in preventing dementia.
“Physical exercise might end up leading to increased density of the connections between the neurons and create alternative pathways for signals in the brain. Think of this process to a street system in a city. The more alternative routes are available to drivers, the less likely it is that a blockage on one street will lead to a city-wide traffic jam. Exercise actually encourages the growth of new neurons, and the preservation of those we already have.”
The good news is that most seniors can participate in some type of exercise, even if it is something light like gentle yoga or swimming. This could go a long way to keep them independent and improve their quality of life.
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