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Physical activity may help boost brain function

Created date

July 6th, 2009

Being physically fit may help your brain function at the top of its game. Canadian researchers found that physical activity improves blood flow in the brain, which in turn boosts cognitive function (thinking abilities). The study evaluated a random sample of women whose average age was 65. Scientists found that women who took part in regular aerobic activity had lower blood pressures, more active blood flow in their brains, and better scores on cognitive function tests than their inactive counterparts. According to lead researcher Mark Poulin, Ph.D., the take-home message from this research is that basic fitness, even just walking every day, is critical to staying mentally sharp and remaining healthy. Check with your doctor before starting any activity. Eating less to remember more German researchers have found that cutting calories may improve memory and cognitive skills among healthy but overweight older adults. Forty-nine men and women with an average age of 60 years and a body mass index (BMI) of 28 were studied. (BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height; a BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight.) One group was advised to cut portions but not to eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day. This group lost an average of five pounds and showed improvements in memory and thinking skills. The study suggests that calorie restriction may boost memory and cognition by reducing insulin resistance and inflammation, factors that may be associated with age-related cognitive decline. Because adults naturally eat less as they reach their early 60s, check with your doctor before beginning any weight loss regimen to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition. Stay calm and socialize to prevent dementia A new Swedish study shows that people who are socially active and not easily stressed may be less likely to develop dementia. The study involved more than 500 older adults who did not have dementia. They were given personality questionnaires that measured how easily stressed they were, how open they were to talking with other people, and how often they participated in leisure or organizational activities. The study found that people who were not socially active but calm and relaxed had a 50% lower risk of developing dementia compared to people who were isolated and prone to stress. The dementia risk was also 50% lower for people who were outgoing and calm compared to those who were outgoing but prone to stress. It is estimated that one in seven Americans age 71 and older has some form of dementia. According to the study s lead author, Hui-Xin Wang, Ph.D., the good news is that lifestyle factors can be modified as opposed to genetic factors, which are beyond our control. Wang also stresses that these are early study results, so exactly how mental attitude affects dementia risk is not clear.