Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lower Dementia Risk with Exercise

While many retired senior citizens slip into a sedentary lifestyle after retirement, they may not realize that spending too much time sitting can increase their dementia risk.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, anything which improves your cardiovascular health is also good for your brain.  Second, when your muscles become weaker, you are at a greater risk for falls, which can lead to broken bones and head injuries.  Exercise, along with other lifestyle changes, is an important part of your plan to reduce your dementia risk.

Aerobic Exercise and Dementia

It has long been known that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is good for your heart.  More recently, researchers have discovered that anything which improves your cardiovascular health will also improve your cognitive health.  In addition, anything which improves your cardiovascular health will also reduce your risk of having a stroke, which can cause serious brain damage.

According to a research study reported by the Mayo Clinic, people who had already been diagnosed with mild dementia or cognitive impairment improved their cognitive scores after six to twelve months of regular exercise, when they were compared to a control group of sedentary individuals with similar original scores.  This research shows you can improve your memory and cognitive function, even if you have already been diagnosed with mild memory loss, simply by consistently engaging in aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, dancing or swimming.

Exercise and Fall Prevention

Fall prevention is another reason why people should exercise regularly as they age.  According to the Centers for Disease Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in seniors.  Falls can lead to broken hips and other bones, which may cause you to become bedridden and potentially develop pneumonia.  Falls can also cause head injuries which could damage the brain.  Exercises which help improve your sense of balance and build strength, such as lifting weights or tai chi, will help reduce your risk of falling.

Other Exercises Which are Good for Your Brain

In a brain health class I am taking through a local college, we learned there are other types of physical exercise which can also benefit the brain and improve our balance.  Below are some of the activities which they suggest:

*  Practice different movements when you take a walk such as walking sideways, walking with your feet further apart than normal, trying to place your feet in front of each other in a straight line, walking on your toes or heels, and similar movements.  These movements help strengthen your ankles and legs while teaching your muscles how to respond to unexpected situations when you walk.

*  Practice walking and talking with someone.  Not only does this make your walks more fun, but the ability to walk smoothly while distracted by a conversation is very helpful.

*  Practice bouncing a rubber ball and tossing it to another person.  As we age, we can lose our spatial awareness.  We may find we toss a ball too hard or too softly.  Being able to throw a ball the proper distance to another person, and then being able to catch a ball tossed to us, are both important cognitive skills.  Maintaining this skill will also make us better while engaging in a variety of activities, including driving.

Reduce Stress with Yoga or Breathing Exercises

Another type of exercise which can benefit our brains are stress reducing exercises such as yoga or breathing exercises.  Learning to naturally relax and reduce our stress can make it easier for your brain to store new memories and recall old ones.

In addition to reducing stress, the practice of yoga can also improve your sense of balance, your flexibility and your strength.

As you can see, everyone should incorporate a variety of types of exercises into their weekly schedule, including aerobic exercise, lifting weights, bouncing a ball and yoga. The combination can go a long way towards improving your brain health.

If you are interested in learning more ways to reduce your dementia risk, you should check out the other articles on this blog in the Medical Concerns section and learn more about the MIND diet and other ways to improve your brain health.

If you are interested in learning more about maintaining good health as you age, retirement planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is scheduled to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Photo credit: morguefile.com

1 comment:

  1. This may be one of the most important articles you've ever written. It applies to everyone and anyone can benefit from it. Kudos!

    ReplyDelete

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