Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition
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Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the leading cause of death in the UK and mortality rates are increasing. This sorry state of affairs engenders a sense of powerlessness but you have agency. Research increasingly suggests you can modify your risk of brain decline by making healthy lifestyle decisions and a new study published today provides further evidence of this.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, found vigorous activity is associated with a reduced risk of brain decline.
Drilling further down into the details, the Chinese researchers counted household chores among these activities.
They also found leisure and work to be associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia.
How did the researchers gather their findings?
Over 500,000 volunteers with an average age of 56 self-reported the amount and type of physical activity they do as part of the UK Biobank study.
UK Biobank is a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants.
Activities reported included walking for pleasure, doing DIY and housework and getting to and from work.
The researchers also asked volunteers about their education levels, how often they visited friends and family, watched tv, used their mobile phones or played computer games at the start of the study.
The volunteers were followed up for an average of 10 years, with 5,185 people in the study developing dementia during that time.
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What did the researchers find out?
Engaging in the activities studied at a higher level was associated with a lower risk of dementia among participants.
For mental activity, watching TV was associated with a higher risk of dementia, but seeing family or friends, or doing other group activities was associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Commenting on the findings, Doctor Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Our brains are incredibly complex, responsible for our memory, as well as what we think, feel and do. Keeping our brains healthy as we age can help stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s, which physically attack brain cells, tearing away at the very essence of who we are.
“We know that being physically and socially active can help us feel happier, healthier and more positive in general. Lifting weights and running marathons aren’t for everyone, but there are many ways that we can stay physically active in our lives.”
Doctor Imarisio continued: “This self-reported study adds to evidence that finding something you can stick to that keeps you physically and socially active is likely to have the greatest benefit to your health, rather than the activity itself.
“The researchers found that even people with a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, could benefit from keeping physically active.
“Loving your heart, staying sharp and keeping connected with other people are three easy to follow rules to help keep your brain healthy as you age. Visit www.thinkbrainhealth.org.uk to find information and advice on brain health.”
Indeed, a growing number of health bodies agree that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society (AS), Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease have many overlapping risk factors such as having poor heart health in mid-life and carrying the APOE4 risk gene.
The AS explains: “Brain cells need a constant supply of blood and oxygen to work properly.
“Part of the role of the heart-brain link is to increase blood supply to the brain when it needs more energy and oxygen. This function is performed by the cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR).”
According to the charity, higher CVR is a good indicator of brain health while lower CVR can occur as a result of heart disease and may increase your risk of brain decline.
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