Alzheimer’s is a complex disease – and there are multiple risk factors outside your control. Your age and genetics can’t be changed. But you can reduce your risk through regular physical exercise like walking. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation reports that you can reduce your risk of developing the condition by up to 50 percent – just through regular exercise. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society also backs up the thinking that exercise is critical in helping delay onset of the disease. It can also be beneficial for those who are already showing signs of cognitive decline.
How does it work? Exercise stimulates the brain and increases its ability to make new connections and maintain old ones. We know that exercise helps the heart and beat more efficiently and improves blood flow throughout the body. Because the brain requires a constant supply of blood, it’s a safe bet that whatever helps the heart helps the brain.
How much exercise do you need?
Experts recommend aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. A combination of aerobic exercises (like walking or swimming) and muscle building exercises are best. Weight training helps increase muscle mass, which helps preserve your brain health. You’ll also get the added benefit of increased balance and coordination. The key is to exercise a little every day, no matter where you do it. Start with just five or 10 minutes a day around your neighborhood or on a treadmill. Work up to 30 minutes. Before you know, your body will be ready for more – and your brain will thank you!
Want to do more? People who engage in mentally challenging activities – especially in their younger years and middle age – have lower levels of a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology. Some of these activities might include reading, writing and playing card games. In addition to regular exercise, social engagement, following a healthy diet, getting quality sleep, and managing your stress are also ways to reduce your risk.
Seek help for memory loss. If you find yourself forgetting names or misplacing items with increasing frequency, talk with your physician. Certain medications or lifestyle changes may help. To find a physician in your area, visit CHIMemorialMedicalGroup.org.