Physical activity improves brain health

As our population ages, studies are finding an increase in the development of dementia at younger ages. Dementia involves declines in cognitive functioning, including reasoning, thinking, and remembering.

More specifically, dementia symptoms include short-term memory problems, increasing confusion, inability to concentrate, behavior problems, depression, and decreased ability to perform daily tasks.

The risk of dementia increases with age. One person in 70 experiences dementia symptoms between the ages of 65 to 69. By ages 85 to 89, one in four people has some degree of dementia. If a person begins to exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s imperative to get a medical evaluation.

It may be worth noting that the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. Dementia refers to symptoms that impact memory, the performance of daily activities, and communication abilities, but it’s not a disease per se. Dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia risk factors

Nerve cells in our brains gradually lose connections with other brain cells as we age. The inability of brain cells to stay connected is what causes cognitive symptoms. Though some memory loss comes with age, dementia symptoms are more severe and interrupt activities of daily living. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia has several risk factors including genetics, sedentary life-style, atherosclerosis, diabetes, aging, smoking, and alcohol use. Not all of those factors are controllable, but some are.

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Dementia risk increases with type 1 diabetes and type 2. Too much sugar and carbs age the brain by interfering in those all-important neuron connections in our brains. Avoidance of diabetes is significant as it presents a whole host of other health conditions.

As a person ages, he or she may notice a slight decline in memory loss or the inability to communicate as clearly. Though mild symptoms may be related to age, if those symptoms start to interfere in performing everyday tasks, a visit to the doctor should strongly be considered.

Exercise may help with dementia symptoms

How can exercise help prevent dementia? Studies found that physical activity helps by increasing the chemicals that protect the brain. It also improves blood flow to the brain, helping it perform properly. Optimizing brain function helps with dementia prevention.

As with many other conditions, exercise helps the mind and body by improving metabolic and cardiovascular health. Metabolic health refers to a person’s blood sugar level, cholesterol level, blood pressure, and waist circumference. Physical activity was found to enhance mood, sleep, and memory. There were fewer falls due to increased strength and balance. There were also gains in behavior, including less aggression, less wandering, and advancements in communication skills.

The “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease” has found that aerobic exercise is more beneficial than other forms of exercise. Two groups of people with memory issues were studied. One group did flexibility training only, such as stretching and yoga.

Though some memory loss comes with age, dementia symptoms are more severe and interrupt activities of daily living.

The other group did aerobic exercise, which included at least a 30-minute workout four to fives time every week. All other factors were kept the same for the two groups. The brain imaging results showed less amyloid buildup in the group doing the aerobic exercise. Amyloid plaque is blamed for killing neurons in the brain.

The sooner the diagnosis of dementia is confirmed, the better the symptoms can be managed. Early intervention and exercise are crucial when it comes to dementia prevention. It helps people make the best of their mental abilities before dementia interferes with communication. Treatment is more straightforward when a person is able to describe their symptoms because it helps point therapy in the right direction.

The need to understand and treat dementia is accomplished through increased research. Volunteers are needed to participate in those studies. If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, talking with a health provider is the first step.

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