As we age, it is important to focus on prevention as well as care, especially when it comes to our cognitive development. Don't wait till it hurts too much to get out of bed, or you begin forgetting information you've known for years. Now is the time to begin preventing age-related cognitive decline. Since knowledge is power, it’s important to know about some of the latest research in dementia care and, be proactive in keeping it from taking its toll.
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According to a study published in PLOS Biology, research has shown that deterioration of the brain in old age can be reduced by beginning aerobic exercise in or before middle age. It's not entirely clear to scientists or researchers exactly how it works, but they do know that Alzheimer's disease and lack of activity have a distinct connection. So, it would make logical sense that the reverse would have a benefit to age-related dementia.
Exercise helps to promote better blood circulation. Age-related cognitive issues have been shown to be related to lack of circulation and blood supply to the brain, as well as to inflammation. When the brain receives adequate blood supply, this inflammation is reduced.
Scientists who specialize in elder health care have learned that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. That's why exercise is an important part of senior health maintenance. Researchers are unclear about how much exercise is needed to reduce the risk of dementia or when to start, but as a safe bet it is recommended to shoot for at least two hours of walking, running, or another form of aerobic exercise each week. It is most helpful if you begin before hitting middle age. Of course, it's never too late to start exercising, as the benefits far outweigh the alternative.
A study was done using 12-month old mice, which equates to a human in mid-life. The mice ran approximately two miles every night, and then they were assessed at 18 months, which equates to approximately the age of 60, an age by which Alzheimer's risk increases. The results of the study were that a nightly exercise routine helped to improve cognitive ability in the mice, slowing down signs of dementia.
Another similar study with human participants concluded that high television viewing and low levels of physical activity in early to mid-adulthood may raise the risk for poor cognitive function in later in life.
As an ageing adult, family member or friend of a senior, you need to be diligent in making sure the elderly persons in your life maintain an active lifestyle. Exercise improves health and vascular health in the brain to help it function adequately into old age. Because movement reduces the risk of dementia, caregivers should know how important it is to implement exercise in the daily care they provide to seniors. Exercise does not have to be vigorous in nature. Any form of movement as tolerated would be beneficial not just for brain health, but for heart health, muscle strength maintenance, an overall feelings of wellbeing.
Reference: APOE stabilization by exercise prevents aging neurovascular dysfunction and complement induction, Ileana Soto et al., PLOS Biology, doi:10.1371/ journal.pbio.1002279, published 29 October 2015.