If you had a loved one with dementia, you know that it's heartbreaking for them to struggle with their memory loss and it's just as hard on your family. You watch their decline and struggle with taking care of your loved one.
Maybe you started wondering how to avoid this fate yourself… looking into different supplements, memory exercises, and life choices that will help avoid mental decline.
What if doing the right type of physical exercise can work, too? What if by helping to protect your heart, your mobility, and your energy, you also help your brain stay healthy and avoid dementia?
What Causes Dementia?
No one really knows the entire cause of dementia, but there are certain factors:
- Heart disease
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of fruits and vegetables
What's most notable about this is that many of these factors come down to too much of the same thing – not enough fruits and vegetables or exercise.
Ideally, exercising daily and moving around often is what the body needs, as is eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Avoiding processed foods, breads, and other sugary foods, and excess meats put you on the path to being healthier, an ideal weight, and helps you avoid many of life's problems.
Of course, that's not the only reason people get dementia. There are hereditary risk factors, as well as specific exposures earlier in life.
However, even these are reduced when the diet is healthy and the lifestyle active.
How Exercise Reduces Your Chances of Dementia
One of the primary ways exercise works to reduce dementia is increasing blood flow, oxygenation, nutrients, and a little chemical called nitric oxide to the brain.
It also works as a secondary factor to reduce sugar. As Alzheimer's is often called type 3 diabetes, this is important. Exercise burns the sugar in your body, using it as energy. This means there are fewer sugars in your system. Now, your has more energy to easily handle your activity level.
And because insulin is a hormone, when insulin is in excess (from all those extra sugars), it throws off the rest of the hormones in your body. It can disrupt the serotonin and dopamine balance in your brain, which is necessary for your happiness and memory function.
When you throw off dopamine, you also throw off the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and norepinephrine, both exceptionally vital for keeping healthy memories functioning.
One of the other factors is nitric oxide. This chemical is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it opens up your blood vessels to get more nutrients and oxygen to the small capillaries.
Nitric oxide can help reduce nerve cell death in the brain, therefore helping to reduce neuronal degradation in Alzheimer's.
Exercise helps the body produce more nitric oxide naturally, letting your body have more of this healthy and small chemical that's so vital to life.
Aerobic Exercise The Key To Prevention
Aerobic exercise that raises your heart rate affects the brain of older people more than any other type of exercise. Researchers measured the hippocampus area of the brain and the whole brain and showed that the people who regularly exercise had less brain shrinkage than those who were more sedentary.
Meta-analysis of several studies published in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare did a systematic review of prevention for dementia. Although none of the studies were true double-blind placebo-controlled studies, what they found in the 13 studies was that the more exercise in a person's life reduced the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Still, even in the participation groups that started exercising later in life, there was still a reduction in the incidence of dementia, and of those who did develop the disease, the progress was slower.
Aerobic exercise can take many different forms, from walking quickly to running to other classes and events that regularly raise a person's heart rate. If you're looking to get started, start slow and build your way up. Forming an exercise habit to last a lifetime takes dedication and commitment, so take it easy, practice good form, and enjoy yourself.
And Remember, have fun!