‘Take care of your cardiovascular health,’ doctors tell older adults

Think about the risk factors for age-related dementia: risk factors such as hypertension, stroke, and chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and COPD, all of which, while contributing to aging of the brain, are…

‘Take care of your cardiovascular health,’ doctors tell older adults

Think about the risk factors for age-related dementia: risk factors such as hypertension, stroke, and chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and COPD, all of which, while contributing to aging of the brain, are not reversible. Meanwhile, modern sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise have also contributed to age-related cognitive decline. There’s an apparent link between poor lifestyle and cognitive impairment, which is one of the reasons it can be difficult to do both exercise and avoid dementia. Understanding the relationship between cognitive impairment and the brain is important in order to figure out what strategies can be successful and when. Here’s what research says about the connection between healthy exercise and the aging brain.

What does it mean when exercise is found to have a positive association with a healthy brain?

In older adults, exercise can have a protective effect against cognitive impairment. Studies suggest that participants who exercise have lower rates of loss of cognitive skills associated with aging, such as attention and memory. While many studies support the link between exercise and brain health, the significance of these findings is still controversial.

How is it that physical activity has a positive association with brain health?

Evidence suggests that exercise increases the production of beneficial proteins and that the brain’s fibers are more elastic and efficient after physical activity. Studies show that higher levels of mitochondria, proteins that play a role in cell function, are typically found in the brains of older adults who have a healthy lifestyle. This is because mitochondria are located in the brain, where aging cognitive loss can occur. Researchers believe that exercising regularly can improve your risk of cognitive decline.

More research is needed to confirm these findings, but it is clear that exercise can lower the risk of cognitive decline. With that said, several questions need to be answered: What are the benefits of exercising? Can short bursts of physical activity boost brain health, or is a sedentary lifestyle more beneficial? And how should we be exercising to be best prepared for cognitive decline?

Are there physical risks that can be taken into account?

As with every other activity, some individuals may be more vulnerable to the risks of muscle loss after exercise and to the effects of exertion on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. While it is difficult to categorize the risks for exercise, scientists are concerned that, due to the lack of research on mental and physical fatigue, risks associated with the short-term physical benefits of exercise are not being fully understood. With this in mind, these athletes take precautions to make sure they are safely maintaining these benefits while using the tool they use to perform. For example, individuals considering their next exercise can consult their medical doctor or coach before beginning a new routine and ask for referral to a physical therapist.

What can we do to protect our brain as we age?

With research showing a link between physical inactivity and cognitive decline, working more efficiently is a great way to protect both your brain and your physical and mental health. The trick is to ensure that you maintain these benefits while constantly keeping in mind your personal risk and protection factors. As with any other activity, careful consideration is required. Educate yourself and choose a sport, strength and conditioning program that is designed to improve cardiovascular fitness and improve performance and speed while also helping you stay active. Proper nutrition will also be important to the health of your heart, muscles, and lungs as well as improving your brain.

– Desiree Young, Medical News Today

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