Repair The Bodys Blood Vessels
Keeping our blood vessels, especially in our brain, healthy is vital in preventing the onset of any inflammation or disease, such as dementia. To maintain healthy blood vessels and even repair them, many bodily factors need to be existent and running smoothly. Exercise also causes the release of these other factors, such as Insulin Growth Factor 1 , Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor , and Fibroblasts Growth Factor , says Board Certified Neurologist and epileptologist Philippe Douyon, M.D. He believes that all of these independent systems fuel learning by building and repairing damaged blood vessels in our brain.
Dementiain all its formsis an incredibly complex and individual condition. Leading a physically active life has shown promise in helping to maintain some of the major functions that contribute to a healthy brain. If you think you are at risk of developing dementia or a dementia-related brain condition, talk to your doctor. He or she will be be able to help you choose the best course of action for you.
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Exercises Role In Keeping Us Sharp
It may seem like the odds are stacked against us, but there is good news. As Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel discuss in The Telomere Effect, A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, exercise can keep our telomeres strong. They also dive into the best exercises to help prevent Alzheimers and dementia, keep our hippocampus growing and our telomeres lengthening. There seems to exist a love connection between habitual physical exercise and increased telomere length in postmenopausal women. Even better, women may actually be the greater beneficiaries of exercise in mid-life and beyond. More research is needed as the science points that way.
The Best Exercises To Help Prevent Alzheimers And Dementia
After observing 6,500 participants for over three years, Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Epel noticed improvement in telomere length of those doing one type of aerobic exercise. An even greater result involved two different types of heart-pumping work. And the greatest change was noted in folks who really mixed it up and dropped four different types of exercise into their weekly workout plan.
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High Intensity Interval Training
Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Eppel also report found that High Intensity Interval Training can also work wonders for our telomere lengths. While aerobics can keep telomeres strong and growing, HIIT actually works to stimulate the birth of brand new hippocampus cells. Revving up our workout intensity forces our hippocampus to adapt and grow to accommodate the onslaught of energy. Our memory improves, our cognitive functions improve, and our lives improve.
As older adults, we must gradually build up our capability, even if we have been exercising regularly. HIIT training is not something to just jump into, so consult with a physician and fitness professional before jumping in. A fitness professional can help you put together a sensible plan, but make sure you speak with someone who is trained to work with your age range.
If the thought of enrolling in a fitness class sounds daunting, keep in mind that household activities count too! Any activity will count, as long as your heart rate stays up in your 60 percent range for 45 minutes. To make sure youre hitting your numbers, buy a heart rate monitor and wear it while you vigorously vacuum, rake leaves, or clean. And wear it when you are at the gym!
Speaking of workouts, youve probably heard about more women opting for heavy weight lifting. See why it even more beneficial for women over 50.
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Other Beneficial Effects Of Exercise
Numerous noncognitive, nonvascular benefits additionally benefit from exercise, which may be especially relevant to an aging population. This includes reduction of osteoporosis and fracture risk, age-related sarcopenia, and benefits directed at depression and anxiety. An exercise program may improve behavioral management in seniors with dementia and fall risk. Importantly, long-term physical activity and fitness reduce mortality risk in the general population.,
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Pillar #: Vascular Health
Theres more and more evidence to indicate that whats good for your heart is also good for your brain. Maintaining your cardiovascular health can be crucial in protecting your brain and lowering your risk for different types of dementia, including Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia. And of course, addressing heart-health issues can also help you to lower your risk for a future heart attack or stroke.
Control Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is strongly associated with an increased risk of dementia. High blood pressure can damage tiny blood vessels in the parts of the brain responsible for cognition and memory. The latest American Heart Association guidelines class blood pressure readings of 130/80 mm Hg and above as the start of high blood pressure.
Check your blood pressure at home. A study in the Netherlands found that a large variation in blood pressure readings over a period of years was associated with an increased risk of dementia. Inexpensive monitors that wrap around your upper arm can help you keep track of your blood pressure throughout the day and pick up on any variations. Some devices even send the results to your phone so you can easily track your readings or share them with your doctor.
How Can Exercise Help Reduce Dementia Risk
Some risk factors for dementia are uncontrollable. For example, genetic mutations can cause conditions such as Alzheimers or Huntingtons disease, two well-known causes of dementia. It is impossible to change ones genetic makeup to improve the risk of developing dementia.
However, other types of dementia link back to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sleep apnea. After Alzheimers, the second-most common type of dementia is vascular dementia caused by damage to the brains blood vessels. Adopting lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, can minimize these risk factors.
Studies have shown that regular physical exercise is one of the best things a person can do to decrease the risk of developing dementia. This is true of healthy older adults as well as those still in middle age. Exercise alone can reduce the risk of dementia in general by 30% and Alzheimers, specifically by 45%. While exercise alone has shown to have the largest individual effect on preventing dementia, when combined with other lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet, moderate alcohol intake, and tobacco avoidance, the risk of developing dementia can decrease by 60%.
Physical Fitness And Brain Health
Research surrounding the connection between brain health and physical activity has increased in recent years. Studies continue to explore the idea that engaging in fitness activities seems to protect cognitive function longer. A study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health , for example, suggests that lifestyle can impact your risk for Alzheimers.
Another study examined the amount of exercise it takes to make a difference. Older adults who participated in this study engaged in what is considered modest exercise, walking at a moderate pace on a treadmill for 30 minutes five times a week. A moderate pace is considered to be a speed that raises the heart rate while still allowing the participant to carry on a conversation.
So, what types of exercise should older adults discuss with their primary care physician? We have some ideas you might find useful.
Senior-Friendly Forms of Fitness
Some types of exercise are kinder on older joints than others. A few senior-friendly exercises to try are Tai Chi, chair yoga, swimming, walking, cycling, and Pilates. These are all good for managing pain associated with osteoarthritis, too.
Another idea is to explore the SilverSneakers program. If your health insurance plan is a participating organization, you might be entitled to a complimentary membership. Their classes take place at fitness centers across the country every day.
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Learn A Musical Instrument
Learning a musical instrument is the ultimate brain exercise. It forces your brain to take on something it is completely unfamiliar with. Research has shown that playing an instrument helps keep the mind sharper and improves long-term memory. Also, a study out of the University of Montreal showed that those who play instruments have faster reaction times, which is important as you get older, your reaction time typically slows. Playing an instrument can help prevent that cognitive slip.
Midlife Exercise And Reduced Risks Of Later Dementia And Mci
Adults who routinely engaged in physical activities, sports, or regular exercise in midlife carried a significantly lower risk of dementia years later, based on a recent meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Thus, reduction of dementia risk was documented in 10 of 11 studies, with an estimated relative risk of 0.72 .
Several prospective cohort investigations have reported significantly reduced subsequent risks of MCI associated with midlife exercise.- A population-based, case-control study similarly found that moderate exercise retrospectively reported for midlife was associated with a significantly reduced risk of MCI. Reduction of MCI risk with retrospectively reported earlier life exercise was also documented in a cross-sectional study of a large female cohort.
One caveat: the association of midlife exercise with later cognitive preservation could be explained by reverse causality. In other words, those with very early, preclinical neurodegenerative disease might be disinclined to exercise.
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Why Exercise Can Help Prevent Alzheimers
But in her 50s, Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the New York University Center for Neural Science, was so immersed in work that she had no social life, and she was overweight due to lack of activity.
So, she went back to the gym. After a short time, her mood was better. She had more energy and focus. And she lost weight.
With Suzukis field of expertise being the brain, the scientist decided to examine the effects of physical exercise through the prism of neuroscience. And what she found is great news for anyone hoping to remain mentally sharp and avoid Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. Her findings also fit a growing body of research that shows a powerful link between mental health and physical exercise.
Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain, says Suzuki, who discusses the science behind the idea in a TED Talk that has more than 3.4 million views on .
What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain, including your mood and your focus? she says. And what if I told you that same thing could actually last a long time and protect your brain from different conditions like depression, Alzheimers disease, or dementia?
I am talking about the powerful effects of physical activity — that is, simply moving your body has immediate, long-lasting, and protective benefits for your brain that can last for the rest of your life.
How To Get Moving
Want to start exercising but arent sure how to start? We asked CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas for her top tips on adding more exercise into your life.
Dont try to do it all at the start. Youll just get injured and derail your motivation, said Santas, who is a mind-body coach for professional athletes. Instead, start with breathing and movement exercises designed to reconnect your mind and body. Then, start walking! Try to build up to a moderate-to-brisk pace.
Start by walking just five to 10 minutes daily over the first few days while you figure out the best time and place for your walks, Santas said. Once youve determined the logistics, begin adding a few minutes more to each walk. Ideally, you want to get up to about 20 to 30 minutes per day.
If you want to add weight training, she said, you can follow along with this video.
Equally important to adding movement to your life, Santas advises, is to make it a habit.
Take steps to make it sustainable so it becomes a part of your lifestyle that you enjoy and take pride in rather than viewing it negatively, like a chore, Santas said.
She suggests habit-stacking, or doing a simple exercise before, after or during a normal daily task, such as making your bed, showering and brushing your teeth.
For nearly eight years now, Ive been doing 50 body-weight squats or two-minute wall sits while I brush my teeth, Santas told CNN.
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Is More Exercise Better
The literature cited herein suggests cognitive benefits from aerobic exercise, but it remains unclear whether there are threshold effects or whether exercise duration and intensity are important variables. In mice, longer durations of exercise were more effective than shorter durations in attenuating the neuropathologic and clinical effects of the dopaminergic neurotoxin, 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydro pyri dine., In a single human study, serum BDNF levels increased with exercise in proportion to the degree of lactate elevation.
Human clinical trials assessing exercise duration or intensity, however, have been confined to resistance training. In a 6-month RCT in seniors, 2 intensities of resistance exercises resulted in similar degrees of cognitive benefit. In another RCT, once-weekly resistance exercise significantly improved cognitive scores similar to twice-weekly exercise. However, duration was important in this latter trial in that the cognitive benefit was only documented at 12 but not 6 months. These 2 trials, however, assessed resistance training, not aerobic exercise, per se.
Be Active For Better Memory
A recent study conducted at Rush University Medical Center found that active older adults may keep more of their cognitive abilities than those less active, even if they have brain lesions or biomarkers linked to dementia.
The association between activity and scores on cognitive tests remained even when researchers adjusted for how severe a participants brain lesions were. The relationship was also consistent in people who had dementia and those who didnt.
Researchers also found that participants who showed better movement and coordination had sharper memory and cognition.
People who moved more had better thinking and memory skills compared to those who were more sedentary and did not move much at all, said Dr. Aron S. Buchman, lead author of the study and associate professor in the department of neurological sciences at Rush in a statement.
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Exercise Your Way To Better Brain Health
Of the five components in Sherzai’s lifestyle intervention, exercise is the one he typically recommends implementing first.
“Whenever we apply behavior change to a population, we’re looking to create sustainable habits with small successes people can see right away, and nothing is better than exercise. It’s easy to implement, measurable and precise, with a fast return,” Sherzai said.
After only a few weeks of regular exercise, his patients often feel better, get better sleep and their lipid and blood glucose profiles improve. Sherzai explained that these are some of the indirect ways exercise reduces risk for Alzheimer’s, because each of those factors are associated with higher rates of the disease.
He also listed three direct links between exercise and improved brain health:
First direct benefit: Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients.
Second direct benefit: It simultaneously flushes inflammatory and oxidative elements out the brain faster. “Cognitive decline starts vascularly,” Sherzai said, “and exercise helps with this more than anything else.
Third direct benefit: An increase in a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor which Sherzai says, “is almost like growth hormones for neurons, but specifically for the connections between neurons.” Maintaining these neuronal connections is a key in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Getting Started On An Exercise Program
- Talk with the persons doctor and organise a full medical check-up. Other health conditions, such as arthritis or high blood pressure, may limit the types of exercises the person with dementia can safely perform.
- A physiotherapist can design an exercise program that takes the persons current health and abilities into account.
- Start slowly. For example, perhaps five minutes of continuous exercise is all the person can manage at first. Over a period of months, add one extra minute at a time until the person can comfortably exercise for 30 minutes.
- Demonstrate the activity yourself and ask the person to follow your lead.
- Boredom kills off motivation, so mix up the activities to keep it interesting.
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A Boost For The Brain
Staying active means the brain has more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons, according to Kaitlin Casaletto, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study. The positive impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins that are associated with Alzheimers and other neurodegenerative diseases, the study found.
Exercise is often linked to better health throughout life, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying its one of the best things people can do to improve their health and is vital for healthy ageing because it can reduce the burden of chronic diseases.
The new data underlines the benefits of physical activity and sets out another reason to stay active in older age. The brains of most older adults accumulate toxic proteins that are the hallmarks of Alzheimers disease. Many scientists believe these toxins cause synapses and neurons to break down, and Casalettos work shows the importance of maintaining synaptic integrity to slow this process down.