Tag Archives: exercise and brain health

Neighborhood features affect cognitive function in seniors

As a senior citizen who has had family members suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, I want to know everything I can about aging and cognition, so this study from Florida Atlantic University piqued my interest.

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The neighborhood environment may positively or negatively influence one’s ability to maintain cognitive function with age. Since older adults spend less time outside, the neighborhood environment increases in importance with age. Studies suggest physical aspects of the neighborhood such as the availability of sidewalks and parks, and more social and walking destinations, may be associated with better cognitive functioning. Beneficial neighborhood environments can provide spaces for exercise, mental stimulation, socializing and reducing stress. To date, few studies have examined how the neighborhood’s physical environment relates to cognition in older adults. Continue reading

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I am 80 years old today!?

Holy crap! I am an octogenarian! I can’t believe it. I don’t feel that old. In fact, having been retired for 20 years now, I can honestly say, I feel better and healthier now than when I was working and in my ’50’s. I rode my bike 25 miles yesterday in Chicago’s balmy 30 degree weather and I plan to do the same this morning. Lucky me!

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This is my birthday picture from a few years back. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated. Also, my pup is in it, too.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a 200 calorie serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly 10 years, but if you want to get control of your own weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Your brain needs physical exercise – Scientific American

I have written repeatedly about the brain benefits from physical exercise. Asregular readers know, I have a visceral interest in this having lost three family members to dementia. My mother suffered from dementia. Her sister died of Alzheimer’s Disease and my father’s father also was cognitively challenged. That goes back to the mid 1940’s when far less was understood about cognition in general.

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Scientific American illustration by Tami Tolpa

Now comes the latest issue of Scientific American with fresh insights into the brain/exercise situation:

People often consider walking and running to be activities that the body is able to perform on autopilot. But research carried out over the past decade by us and others would indicate that this folk wisdom is wrong. Instead exercise seems to be as much a cognitive activity as a physical one….

But simply exercising more may not realize the full potential of physical activity for keeping brain decline at bay. Indeed, our model suggests that even people who already get a lot of aerobic activity may want to rethink their routines. It is possible that we might not always exercise in ways that take full advantage of our evolved mechanisms for sustaining brain performance….

… we have developed a game designed to specifically challenge aspects of cognition that tend to decline with age and that are probably needed during foraging. In the game, players spatially navigate and complete attention and memory tasks while cycling at a moderate aerobic intensity level.

Tony

 

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Muscle loss linked to cognitive decline

I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on both the body and brain. It turns out that there seems to be a link between loss of muscle mass, sarcopenia, and cognitive decline.

Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, tends to happen naturally with age. So, in older people with sarcopenia, excess body fat may not be readily visible. But hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk, researchers warn.

A recent study — the results of which have been published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging — has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but especially when occurring together) can heighten the risk of cognitive function impairments later in life.

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The research was conducted by scientists at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“Sarcopenia,” explains senior study author Dr. James Galvin, “has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions.” Continue reading

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Exercise and heart-healthy diet may slow memory problems developing

Cognitive impairment without dementia (CIND), or mild cognitive impairment, is a condition that affects your memory and may put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to the U.S. National Library for Medicine, signs of mild cognitive impairment may include frequently losing things, forgetting to go to events and appointments, and having more trouble coming up with words than other people of your age.

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My go-to exercise is biking. My dog comes along when the weather is willing. At 79, everything seems to be working …

Some experts believe that risk factors for heart disease also are risk factors for dementia and late-life cognitive decline and dementia. Recently, researchers examined two potential ways to slow the development of CIND based on what we know about preventing heart disease. They published the results of their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

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Improved fitness can mean living longer without dementia – Study

“It is important to say that it is never too late to begin exercising. The average participant in our study was around 60 years old at baseline, and improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness was strongly linked to lower dementia risk. Those who had poor fitness in the 1980s but improved it within the next decade could expect to live two years longer without dementia,” says Atefe Tari of the Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

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Tari is lead author of a new study that was recently published in Lancet Public Health, a highly ranked journal in the prestigious Lancet family.

“Persistently low fitness is an independent risk factor for dementia and death due to dementia,” the authors concluded. Continue reading

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Aging folks worried about dementia risk

Nearly half of Americans in their 50s and early 60s think they’re likely to develop dementia as they grow older, but only 5% of them have actually talked with a doctor about what they could do to reduce their risk, a new study finds. 

Meanwhile, a third or more say they’re trying to stave off dementia by taking supplements or doing crossword puzzles – despite the lack of proof that such tactics work. 

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The new findings suggest a need for better counseling for middle-aged Americans about the steps they can take to keep their brains healthy as they age.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to work on potential dementia-preventing medications. But an over-estimation of future dementia risk by individuals may lead to costly over-use of such products, the researchers warn.

The new results appear in a research letter in the new edition of JAMA Neurology, and a presentation at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual meeting.

Both are by members of a team from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation who analyzed data from a nationally representative poll of 1,019 adults between the ages of 50 and 64.

Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., a geriatric psychiatrist specializing in dementia-related care and lead author of the JAMA Neurology letter, notes that even among the oldest Americans, the risk of dementia is lower than one in three people over age 85.

Risk starts rising around age 65, and is higher among people of Latino or African-American heritage. Continue reading

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Number of people with dementia will double in twenty years

Regular readers are aware of my serious interest in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease because I have lost several family members to a form of dementia. That is one of the reasons for my focus in this blog. There is no silver bullet to avoid Alzheimer’s yet, but exercise seems to work for keeping dementia at bay. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) to learn more.

A new report projects the number of people living with dementia in the US will double to 13 million by 2040. The report estimates that the number of women diagnosed with dementia will rise to 8.5 million, and the number of men with dementia will reach 4.5 million. Source: Milken Institute

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Women caregivers are more likely to be impacted financially and leave their jobs or miss work to care for a family member. The image is in the public domain.

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias will double to nearly 13 million over the next 20 years, according to the new Milken Institute report “Reducing the Cost and Risk of Dementia: Recommendations to Improve Brain Health and Decrease Disparities.”

Milken Institute research estimates that by 2020, roughly 4.7 million women in the US will have dementia, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all people living with the condition.

The number of both women and men living with dementia is projected to nearly double by 2040, with the number of women projected to rise to 8.5 million, and the number of men expected to reach 4.5 million (up from 2.6 million in 2020), according to the report, which was released at the 2019 Milken Institute Future of Health Summit in Washington, D.C.

Over the next 20 years, the economic burden of dementia will exceed $2 trillion, with women shouldering more than 80 percent of the cumulative costs.

“Longer lifespans are perhaps one of the greatest success stories of our modern public health system,” explains Nora Super, lead author of the report and senior director of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “But along with this success comes one of our greatest challenges. Our risk of developing dementia doubles every five years after we turn 65; by age 85, nearly one in three of us will have the disease.”

“With no cure in sight, we must double down on efforts to reduce the cost and risk of dementia,” she added. “Emerging evidence shows that despite family history and personal genetics, lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and better sleep can improve health at all ages.”

In collaboration with partners such as UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, AARP and Bank of America, Super and her co-authors, Rajiv Ahuja and Kevin Proff, have developed detailed recommendations and goals for policymakers, businesses, and communities to improve brain health, reduce disparities, and ultimately change the trajectory of this devastating disease.

1) Promote strategies to maintain and improve brain health for all ages, genders, and across diverse populations
2) Increase access to cognitive testing and early diagnosis

3) Increase opportunities for diverse participation in research and prioritize funding to address health disparities

4) Build a dementia-capable workforce across the care continuum

5) Establish services and policies that promote supportive communities and workplaces for people with dementia and their caregivers

“As this important new report shows, dementia is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, SVP, Policy & Brain Health at AARP. “It also demonstrates that we have the power to create change, whether by helping consumers maintain and improve their brain health, advancing research on the causes and treatment of dementia, or supporting caregivers who bear so much of the burden of this disease. We at AARP look forward to working with the Milken Institute and other key partners to achieve these goals.”

“Brain health broadens the fight against Alzheimer’s to include everyone and is the key to defeating stigma, increasing early detection, speeding up research — and ending this disease,” said Jill Lesser, a founding board member of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “This new look by the Milken Institute offers important recommendations and actions to help move us to an optimal system of brain health care in this country.”

Among the breakthrough findings, new data have “unveiled key discoveries about the differences between men’s and women’s brains, and how they age. Moreover, women typically take on greater caregiver responsibilities than men. Women caregivers are more likely to be impacted financially and leave their jobs or miss work to care for a family member. And research demonstrates that spousal caregivers may be at a higher risk of cognitive impairment or dementia than non-caregivers.”

“With this research, the Milken Institute has taken an important step to better understand the impacts of dementia on diverse populations,” said Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America. “This study, together with our own research on life stages, women, health and wellness, plays a critically important role in our efforts to educate and provide guidance to individuals and families throughout their financial lives.”

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Fitter adults have more fit brains – Study

I have posted numerous times on exercise benefiting the brain as much as the body. But, I have been primarily interested in preserving brain function into our senior years. Here is fresh information immediate brain benefits from physical exercise for all ages.

In a large study, German scientists have shown that physical fitness is associated with better brain structure and brain functioning in young adults. This opens the possibility that increasing fitness levels may lead to improved cognitive ability, such as memory and problem solving, as well as improved structural changes in the brain. This work is presented for the first time at the ECNP Congress in Copenhagen, with simultaneous publication in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

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Scientists have previously shown that “exercise is good for the brain,” but most studies have not controlled for underlying causes which might give distorted results, such as body weight, blood glucose levels, education status, age and other factors, making it difficult to take an overall view of the benefits. In addition, studies have rarely looked at fitness in relations to both brain structure and mental functioning.

The scientists used a publicly available database of 1206 MRI brain scans from the Human Connectome Project, which had been contributed by volunteers who wanted to contribute to scientific research. The volunteers (average age 30 years old) underwent some additional testing. The first test was a “two-minute walking test”, where each person was asked to walk as fast as possible for 2 minutes and the distance was then measured. The volunteers then underwent a series of cognitive tests***, to measure such things as memory, sharpness, judgement, and reasoning.

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Thinking about your brain – infographic

I love this infographic of the brain. Surprisingly, they left out one of the most impressive facts to me, namely, that the brain burns 20 to 25 percent of our daily calories. Bigger than any single muscle.

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Before you go, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for a lot more details on this major organ in our body.

Tony

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How exercise may protect against Alzheimer’s – Study

As a senior citizen whose family has Alzheimer’s and dementia on both sides I am keenly interested in anything on the subject. Herewith a study published in Nature Medicine.

Athletes know a vigorous workout can release a flood of endorphins: “feel-good” hormones that boost mood. Now there’s evidence that exercise produces another hormone that may improve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study co-led by Ottavio Arancio, MD, PhD, a researcher at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.

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Physical activity is known to improve memory, and studies suggest it may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers don’t understand why. Continue reading

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Exercise linked to improved mental health – The Lancet

More exercise was not always better, and the study found that exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week was associated with the biggest benefits.

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Riding a bike scored really high in the study

The study included all types of physical activity, ranging from childcare, housework, lawn-mowing and fishing to cycling, going to the gym, running and skiing.

Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and mortality from all causes, but its association with mental health remains unclear.

Previous research into the effect of exercise on mental health has conflicting results. While some evidence suggests that exercise may improve mental health, the relationship could go both ways – for example inactivity could be a symptom of and contributor to poor mental health, and being active could be a sign of or contribute to resilience. The authors note that their study cannot confirm cause and effect.

 

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Maintaining the good life in later years!

I wanted to share this fine rundown of finding the gold in the golden years. As a dog lover I am a follower of Paul Handover’s Learning from Dogs blog. Clearly, this post covers ground most germaine to Diet, Exercise and Living Past 100.

Tony

Learning from Dogs

Living well as we age.

TIME magazine published a double-issue in February of this year How To Live Longer Better!

The article, on Page 47, opens:

Old age demands to be taken very seriously – and it usually gets its way!

Then later on in that same article one reads:

Exactly how much – or how little – exercise it takes to begin paying dividends has been one of the happy surprises of longevity research. A 2016 study found that elderly people who exercised for just 15 minutes a day, at an intensity level of a brisk walk, had a 22% lower risk of early death compared to people who did not exercise.

Then two sentences later:

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada even found that breaking a sweat for just 60 seconds may be long enough to improve health and fitness (as long as it’s a tough workout).

As…

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Exercise Creates Optimal Brain State for Mastering New Motor Skills

As I have said numerous times here, I love it when fresh news meets my bias. The one I am thinking about is how physical exercise benefits brain function. You can check out my post – Can exercise help me to learn? And, don’t forget my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise benefits.

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If you want to learn to walk a tightrope, it’s a good idea to go for a short run after each practice session. That’s because a recent study in NeuroImage demonstrates that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It’s a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury. Continue reading

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Frequent aerobic exercise cuts schizophrenia negative symptoms – Study

More good news on exercise this morning. Writing in the British Psychological Society Research Digest, Emma Young reports positive news on the move more section of our eat less; move more; live longer mantra.

Aerobic exercise – any activity that gets your heart pumping harder – improves mood, anxiety and memory. It can help people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Now there’s evidence, from a randomized controlled trial published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, that a program of regular aerobic exercise also reduces psychopathology in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. And it seems to have a particular impact on so-called “negative” symptoms, such as apathy and loss of emotional feeling, which are not improved by standard drug treatments.

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“[W]hile antipsychotics [drug treatments] are essential in treating schizophrenia, interventions other than antipsychotic treatment…may be needed to achieve better outcomes,” write the authors of the new study, led by Peng-Wei Wang at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan. Continue reading

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How Much Exercise is Needed to Help Improve Thinking Skills?

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Herewith another example of the value of the move more element. We all want to live longer, but that has little meaning if we don’t have a fully functional brain to power us through. I talk about the value of exercise regularly here. Now we have a study that quantifies the amount of movement relevant to benefit our brain.

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We know that exercise may help improve thinking skills. But how much exercise? And for how long?

To find the answers, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., PT, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy and neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reviewed all of the studies in which older adults were asked to exercise for at least four weeks and then take tests of thinking and memory skills. Their results were compared to those of people who did not start a new exercise routine. The review was published in the May 30 online issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers found that people who exercised an average of at least 52 hours over about six months for about an hour each session may improve their thinking skills. In contrast, people who exercised for an average of 34 hours over the same time period did not show any improvement in their thinking skills. Continue reading

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