Doing more to prevent dementia
Eating healthily, being physically active and socialising are all great ways of helping to stave off the onset of dementia.
With already over 850,000 of us in the UK diagnosed with symptoms of dementia and the figure expected to reach 2 million by 2051 the impact on sufferers and their families is immense. There are, however, things we can do for ourselves to keep our brains healthier for longer.
Research tells us that exercise is one of a number of lifestyle factors which enhances cognitive function and so may delay Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia.
Becoming more active does help
Studies have found that being physically active helps to prevent our brains from shrinking as we age and therefore delay the onset of symptoms of dementia. But exercise doesn’t only prevent brain shrinkage it is now believed that aerobic exercise, in particular, may actually increase brain volume. The result of this may be improved memory function, especially in those with existing dementia symptoms.
In fact, it is during our middle years when exercise has the optimum impact on our future cognitive function.
How does exercise affect our brains?
There are a number of ways that exercise can help:
As we exercise there is an increase in blood flow throughout our body but especially to the brain. Poor blood flow can hasten the symptoms of dementia by impairing memory but by exercising, our brain receives more oxygen and essential nutrients which help to protect how the brain functions.
The role of hormones and proteins
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have been found to have significantly reduced amounts of specific proteins and hormones in the brain. These play an important role in signalling pathways and so the lack of these results in reduced cognitive function. During exercise hormones and proteins are released which enhance our brain power and help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Helping our hearts
Heart attacks and strokes can lead to impaired cognitive function and heart disease can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Studies have shown that exercising for a minimum of 150 minutes a week is one of the best ways to keep a healthy heart.
Maintaining a healthy weight
If glucose levels are too high brain cells can be damaged and according to research there is an increased risk of developing dementia, in particular in those with type 2 diabetes. Taking regular exercise results in lower glucose levels in the blood and enables the body to use these sugars as energy instead.
Creating new neural pathways
If specific pathways in the brain are blocked or damaged, exercise can help the brain to create new neural pathways. The transmission of electrical impulses is also increased by exercise which in turn improves its function.
Immediate and long-term benefits
After only 10 minutes of exercise the benefit to the way our brain functions is noticeable but exercising for a period of 6 months or more can even reverse the effects of dementia.
So aerobic exercise undertaken on a regular basis can boost our brains and reduce our chances of getting dementia but are there benefits with other types of exercise too?
How to boost brain function during exercise:
- Do some resistance training using free weights while standing unsupported – that way you’re less likely to lose your body’s natural stability. Resistance exercises are important tools against cognitive decline
- Combine aerobic and resistance exercises for optimal health benefits
- Try shorter bursts of high intensity exercise as along with promoting fat loss it should reduce strains that may occur from long-duration exercise
- Exercise should be fun – if you choose something you enjoy then you are more likely to stick at it. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running mini marathons – brisk walking, gardening, swimming, cycling all count!
- Try balancing exercises – those with dementia commonly find they lose their balance so performing balancing exercises or closing your eyes during a yoga or pilates class will challenge your ears and muscles to work more strongly
Other ways to keep our brains in tip top condition
Along with taking regular physical activity there are other lifestyles factors to consider if we want to boost our brain power:
A healthy, well-balanced diet
A study from January 2018 in the journal Neurology found that eating a healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits and green leafy vegetables showed a slowing of age-related cognitive decline.
Read more on how to eat well
Research has found that high social engagement seems to prevent or delay dementia so maintaining those social links is key to keeping the brain healthy.
Keep your brain ticking!
It has not yet been proven that cognitive training helps ward off the onset of dementia but learning a new skill or hobby may help preserve brain function
We have a section with articles dedicated to dementia so if you would like to read more then follow the Dementia link
All content on Silversurfers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Silversurfers will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on www.silversurfers.com and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silversurfers to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health
Have you got a health question?
We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a health related question of your own - about your or your family's health, medication or upcoming procedures, for example - you can also access their, "Ask the Expert" service. Available around the clock, 365 days a year this free resource allows you to ask the team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives and pharmacists about any health concerns you may have - whenever you need them, 24 hours a day, every day. Please get in touch now.
Click below to submit your question online.
SUBSCRIBE FOR AXA HEALTHCARE
AXA PPP healthcare ensure that, once you have a GP referral, you can choose who to see and where to go, from a list of approved specialists and hospitals. Making sure you get the treatment you need giving you the flexibility to manage your health around your lifestyle.
AXA PPP Private health insurance, put simply, offers you quick access to eligible health treatment, from seeing a specialist for diagnosis to having a comfortable stay while you’re in hospital.
2 Months free healthcare cover for Silversurfers subscribers Plus a choice of FREE gift when you join*
AXA PPP healthcare
Latest posts by AXA PPP healthcare (see all)
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!