Weekly Wellness: The link between exercise and dementia
COLUMBIA - Did you know that approximately 47.5 million people worldwide are living with dementia? Did you know that the number of people living with dementia is expected to grow to 115.4 million by the year 2050?
Some of you may have heard the term but not really understand the definition of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 - 80% of cases. Vascular dementia (which occurs after a stroke) is the second most common dementia type.
Did you know that exercise can help with dementia?
A major study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease followed more than 1,600 Canadians over 5 years. The findings of this study connect genes, lifestyle risk factors and dementia.
Researchers, who tracked participants in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, found that while carriers of a variant of the apolipoprotein E genotype are more likely to develop dementia, inactivity dramatically increases the risk for non-carriers.
One of the biggest take-aways of the study is that sedentary older adults with no genetic risk factors for dementia may be just as likely to develop the disease as those who are genetically predisposed.
When researching dementia, I found a list of risk factors and prevention tactics. They didn't surprise me at all. Some risk factors for dementia, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed. Some of the most active areas of research in risk reduction and prevention include cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet.
Cardiovascular risk factors: Your brain is nourished by one of your body's richest networks of blood vessels. Anything that damages blood vessels anywhere in your body can damage blood vessels in your brain, depriving brain cells of vital food and oxygen. You can help protect your brain with some of the same strategies that protect your heart – don't smoke; take steps to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended limits; and maintain a healthy weight.
Physical exercise: Regular physical exercise may help lower the risk of some types of dementia. Evidence suggests exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
Diet: What you eat may have its greatest impact on brain health through its effect on heart health. The best current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, also may help protect the brain. (A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.)
With no known cure, there is an urgent need to explore, identify and change lifestyle factors that can reduce dementia risk, say researchers.