According to CBC News, a recent study revealed that there is a direct link between an increase in exercise and a decrease in dementia. According to this new research, exercise will slow the progression of dementia in seniors. The benefits of exercise and physical activity in younger years will be rewarded later in life.
Research was conducted by doctors in Europe. The study involved 638 people between the ages of 65 and 84 whose brain scans showed some early signs of dementia but who were not yet experiencing debilitating signs in their day to day lives.
The subjects of the study were followed over three years. During that time the participants had regular brain scans, their cognitive ability was assessed, and their exercise was recorded.
The researcher discovered that among the majority of the subjects there was a negative correlation between how much exercise they received at the outset of the study and whether they developed cognitive decline or dementia signs by the time the study ended.
The association was strongest for a non-Alzheimer’s dementia, known as vascular dementia, which is the result of poor blood flow to the brain. The research showed a 50 percent lower rate of vascular dementia when participants exercised.
These findings were not the same for those participants with signs of Alzheimer’s. In these patients there was no direct link between exercise and the rate of mental decline.
White Matter Changes
The study results didn’t apply to all participants of the age group in the study because it only those participants with some earlier physiological signs of dementia called “white matter changes” were included in the study. These changes are present in anywhere from five percent to 90 percent of elderly people, depending on what study you look at.
So while this study would indicate that those who exercised were less likely to develop dementia because of the study group it is also plausible that those with ‘white matter changes’ exercised less because of they suffered from impaired cognitive development.
Earlier studies have gone both ways, with some suggesting exercise correlates to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and others saying exactly the opposite.
The findings, which will be published in the December edition of the scientific journal Stroke, were released Thursday
The research relating to dementia and Alzheimer’s is not new and it continuously looks at new relationships between cause and effect. These conditions affecting the brain are not fully understood even though a great deal of research has been carried out. This is clearly evident when we read that researchers cannot even agree on something as simple as whether exercise plays a role in delaying these conditions or not.
There are a large number of theories pertaining to the causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s but to date there are no clear answers. For anyone who has family dealing with these conditions the unknown can be very frustrating. For most of us, we hope that researchers can get a better understanding of what causes dementia and Alzheimer’s and what might prevent it so that we can better protect ourselves from developing these conditions in the future.