Do you want to know how to maintain a healthy brain?

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Exercise.


This isn't exactly a new and startling idea. It came up in the keynote speech at a dementia conference I recently attended. There are lots of suggestions about how to avoid dementia. Apparently the one suggestion that has solid evidence behind it is engage in physical activity.


No one promises that this will prevent dementia. After all, if it would, then no one who has been physically active all their lives would get dementia, and we all know that not to be the case. But exercise is shown to reduce the risk.


How much exercise? 150 minutes per week.


How strenuous does the exercise have to be? The equivalent of a brisk walk. This is a level where it is somewhat difficult to carry on a conversation but not impossible.


There were other suggestions given over the course of the day, but apparently exercise is the one with solid evidence backing it up. Other suggestions included:


The so-called "Mediterranean diet."
Keeping mentally active, especially by learning new things.


Since the exact cause of most kinds of dementia is not known, exact prevention strategies can't be known. But exercise is known to be helpful to health in general, so it seems a no-brainer to take the current evidence that it is good for the brain seriously.

5 Comments

Thank you Jeanne for the information. I appreciate it. I know I need to get more activity in, even if its parking further away from the grocery store parking lot.
So what you're telling me is the mood swings, jumping to conclusions, night sweats and flying off the handle are *Not* considered exercise? Darned! Just when I thought I was doing good. ;)~
Like cdnreader said, the parking lot is a good place to start.
Also, active smelling!

Fascinating programme about the senses, and how everybody has a heck of a lot more than five without necessarily being aware of it.

But anyway, the point about smelling things is that it is definitely a case of use it or lose it; and, there is a reason why scent is evocative and emotive in ways that the other senses aren't. Your olfactory organs (tiny bulbs high up on each side of the inside of your nose) are linked directly to the amygdala, and they bypass the thalamus which controls and filters every other kind of sensation. There was quite a lot more about it all; but the takeaway point was that learning of new scents, and deliberate focusing on known ones, makes your MRI light up in all kinds of ways and is reckoned (yes I know they always say this) to be much better brain exercise than, say, sudoku.

It also crossed my mind to wonder if, given that it uses different neural pathways, smell could remain stimulating and relevant to people with dementia even after other pleasures have failed them. They didn't go into that subject, though.

Jeanne, brisk walking is what I do best. I keep resolving to make myself break into a brisk run every so often, just to see if I still can really; but it's good to know I might be staving trouble off for the odd five minutes at least.
Wow CM glad Dog won't get dementia!
Countrymouse, people with LBD lose their sense of smell entirely. It is a big factor in their enjoyment of food. I believe that ALZ also causes loss of smell, but I'm not sure if it is as prevalent as in LBD.

I once volunteered for a spinal tap for research. I don't know how we got onto the subject, but the researcher said he had lost his sense of smell and was expecting to develop dementia. I said, "Research faster!" Of course researchers are trying.

All early signs of possible dementia (like REM sleep behavior disorder or loss of smell) could be extremely useful if we ever figure out how to head it off once it starts.

Thanks for sharing this, CM. I'm going to be doing a whole lot more sniffing!

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