Exercise is Medicine: Preventing the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Though a cure does not yet exist for Alzheimer’s, research-based evidence continues to increase regarding the prevention of the disease. In fact, according to Prevention Magazine’s April 2015 issue, it is actually possible to grow your hippocampus (an area of the brain important for memory shrinks about 0.5% per year after age 50) to reverse aging, as is shown below:
After 12 weeks of training at Neurexpand, including 12 total hours of meditation and 24 of memory exercise, this patient grew her hippocampus (in blue) 8.6% — the equivalent of reversing 17 years of brain aging.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015. Of those with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.1 million people are 65 and older. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Additionally, in 2015, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs covered by Medicare.
These numbers are staggering and can hit close to home for those who have first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, offers seven suggestions to incorporate into your daily life to help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s:
- Exercise your mind daily through the use of crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, using a computer and delaying retirement.
- Exercise daily – 30 minutes of sustained or collective physical activity most days of the week. Avoid inactivity.
- Socialize – join a club, go to the theater or just get out of the house.
- Get adequate sleep, which should be approximately seven hours per night.
- Take omega-3 – 1,000 mg twice a day and/or consume two servings of fatty fish per week.
- Take vitamin D3 – 2,000 IU daily.
- Take vitamin B12 – 400 mcg daily.
Dr. Cooper’s recommendations are based on various studies, including the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (The Lancet, March 2015). The study followed 1,260 people ages 60 to 77 deemed at risk for dementia. The subjects followed a healthy diet, completed muscle and cardiovascular training and focused on brain training exercises for two years.
In comparison to the control group, the intervention group scored 25 percent higher in testing situations, 83 percent higher in executive functioning (the management of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving) and 150 percent higher in processing speed (the ability to automatically and fluently perform relatively easy or over-learned cognitive tasks).
“Fitness is a journey, not a destination. You must continue for the rest of your life.” This quote of Dr. Cooper’s from 1970 continues to remain relevant today, 45 years later. At 84 years old, Dr. Cooper walks two or three miles every day, travels the world, spends time with his family and continues to see patients daily.
Taking control of your health and wellness early on can set the stage for your quality of life later, especially when it comes to your brain. Take the initiative now to keep brain health as a top priority in order to lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.