Higher Levels of Physical Activity in the Elderly – An antidote for cognitive decline?

Chicago’s Rush University Memory and Aging Project is a premiere institution studying the impact of memory and aging, particularly as it applies to Alzheimer’s disease. This group of researchers investigated the association of physical activity with cognitive pathology including Alzheimer’s disease. Their results were published recently in the online edition of the prestigious journal Neurology.

Higher levels of daily activity and better motor abilities were both associated independently with better global cognition, and both aspects were additive in nature.

These findings are remarkable. They provide a valuable insight into potential strategies to mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s (as well as other forms of cognitive decline). Namely not through the intervention of a powerful and expensive drug fraught with potential downsides, but through a simple and free intervention — increasing physical activity! What could be better than that? The only side effects might include improved health in other areas such as cardiovascular performance, prevention of falls and greater mobility and independence. In essence, aren’t those the things we would all wish for ourselves and our loved ones?

The details of the study are unassailably robust. The final determination of Alzheimer’s pathology was made at autopsy. No higher form of evidence exists to confirm the diagnosis than that. In addition, prior to a victim’s death a multitude of performance tests in several motor domains were also examined. Very robust data was collected all around, including the number of “counts” (per day that participants made over 2 years.

The other fascinating aspect of these findings are physical activity’s robust effects lie well outside of the realm of movement. The reason for this wasn’t specifically addressed in this study. However, our training in Dr. Dale Bredesen’s groundbreaking ReCODE program taught us the reason why this is true. Muscles release a factor called “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor” or BDNF. This molecule has been called “Miracle-Gro” for the brain by Harvard Neuropsychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD the author of Spark: The revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (a book we recommend). In essence, moving muscles release BDNF which acts, inside the brain itself, to promote the growth of new neurons and preserve of the connections between existing ones. Amazing! Moving your muscles can make your brain stronger and more resilient, too. This may have led to the outcomes measured in the study which include improved memory, increased perceptual speed and better visuospatial abilities (such as navigating).

This study reinforces what we’ve learned through Dr. Dale Bredesen’s Reversal of COgnitive DEcline (ReCODE). Namely, lifestyle factors have a profound impact on preventing and reversing the effects of cognitive decline. Exercise and physical activity are extremely important factors we take into considerable account with each of our patients at Peak Health. Whether they are concerned with cognitive decline, or not, they remain important parameters in everyone’s general health and well-being. They are surely not the only factors, but they are important nonetheless.

If you, or a loved one are concerned about preventing or reversing cognitive decline, we are here to help. Click here to find out more.



Copyright 2019, Peak Health LLC

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A medical doctor who will "Look Deeper" to help everyone achieve their "Peak Health"

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