Exercise as a tool to prevent dementia


I often get asked if there are ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or any of the causes of dementia symptoms and, through my research, what comes up over and over again is that healthy lifestyle choices are proven to delay brain function loss.

Currently, about 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is the most common cause of dementia symptoms, which could be any group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain and cause processing and information loss along with other types of brain malfunctions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people have some cause of dementia symptoms. As you can see, these numbers and the breadth of the impact are staggering.

Scientists have known for a long time that exercise is good for the body. In recent years, more and more research has been conducted that proves it’s good for the brain. One study conducted by a team of Swedish researchers made a connection between stamina, finding that women with optimal cardiovascular health were as much 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who were moderately fit. Another notable studyfound that as many as one in three Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented with lifestyle changes, especially physical activity.

Reinforcing these studies is WHO’s recommendations for people 65 and older to get either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, 20-30 minutes per day, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week or a combination of intensity levels throughout the week. Additionally, strength training has been found to strengthen cognitive ability, increase mood and improve quality of sleep. However, the important thing to remember is that any form of exercise is a great one because all exercise increases blood flow to the brain.

Some forms of exercise, such as dancing or kickboxing, have additional benefits because they require you to learn a new skill or exercise sequence. While just one exercise session can change the way your brain functions, consistent exercise can have long-term effects on how the brain operates. This is because exercise strengthens two areas of the brain; the hippocampus that is responsible for memory and learning and the pre-frontal cortex.

While extremely beneficial, exercise is not the answer to everything. It cannot cure Alzheimer’s disease or the more than 100 causes of dementia symptoms, but it can significantly improve the overall state of your mind, body and soul, and that alone makes a compelling case. For more information on brain health, the importance of self-care and just generally raising dementia awareness, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email. I love to hear from everyone in Dementia Aware community.

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