Walking Away Dementia Dangers

Adult son out for a walk with his father, who has alzheimers disease.

It happens to all of us that as we age, we search harder for the answer to a question we once had always at the tip of our tongues or we struggle to find the name of the singer for that favorite song. According to Harvard Medical School, there are a number of normal memory loss experiences that affect even the healthiest brain. It’s only when the memory loss is continued and there is ongoing forgetfulness one needs to worry.

Both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are two of those conditions in which memory loss is not normal and while both affect more seniors or those aging, they are not considered normal or healthy parts of aging.

In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that at least 47 million people currently suffer from dementia with at least 9.9 million new cases of diagnosis annually. While there is currently no cure for dementia, a recent study published in April’s edition of The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that there is a possible correlation between decreasing vascular dementia and walking.

Vascular dementia is the second most diagnosed form of dementia just behind Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is categorized by the fact that one’s blood supply to the brain becomes impaired or blocked, possibly due to a number of small strokes. However, researchers note that vascular dementia is also associated and more common among those who suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure.

While Alzheimer’s disease is similar to vascular dementia, also known as vascular cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s has been presumably associated with things such as lifestyle, genetics and outside environmental factors whereas vascular dementia is associated with blood flow to the brain.

The study found that walking approximately one hour each day a few times a week may assist in derailing the trajectory of a vascular dementia diagnosis. Research completed by the University of British Columbia in Canada followed 38 elders currently diagnosed with a mild and early-stage form of vascular dementia. They divided the group into two and assigned brisk, one-hour walks to one of the groups whereas the other group would attend lectures on health and nutrition. Over the course of six months, the group that was assigned the brisk and frequent walks had “more efficient brains” according to reports surrounding the study.

Those that were involved with the walking group had subtle, yet notable improvements when it came to maintaining attention as well as being able to quickly come to a decision. Each of the 38 individuals were also given cognitive tests during the examination and the results found that those who walked improved the functionality of their brains as well as lowered their blood pressure, according to the study.

For Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Canada Research Chair in Physical in Physical Activity, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience, the results of the study were exciting although subtle.

Liu-Ambrose and her team feel that this study, albeit short, provides insight into unlocking potential ways to diminish or halt the onset of this very scary memory associated disease.

She will continue her research along with her colleagues to determine the nuances of exercise doses or what occurs to the brain and a condition of vascular dementia if an individual becomes sedentary following a prescription of regular exercise.

For now, scientists are still trying to discover the actual causes surrounding the onset of these debilitating memory diseases in individuals. It does seem promising, though, based on this new research that staying active regularly may decrease the chances of developing a dementia as well as keeping to a healthy and nutritious diet to avoid a diagnosis of heart disease or high blood pressure. Additionally, keeping the mind active is just as important to a healthy mind longer in life.

For those that have been diagnosed with early vascular cognitive impairment, they may be able to diminish their condition by taking several brisk walks each week. An exciting discovery to be sure!

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