A 2011 YouGov poll revealed that dementia is officially the nation’s biggest health concern, ahead of even cancer and heart disease. As Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, identifies, dementia is a ‘devastating condition that robs people of their lives. There is no cure and dementia is the UK’s Cinderella story – we are in the bottom third of Europe when it comes to dementia care.’
No Cure for Dementia?
Dementia is a daunting prospect, for both the sufferer and those who look after them. More daunting still is the fact that there is no known cure. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that many choose to focus on how to avoid developing dementia in the first place. But the big question is: Just what should you be doing to minimize your risks?
According to research, there is actually a relatively easy way to help stave off dementia, and that’s to start getting more active.
Exercise to Beat Brain Degeneration
A study carried out by scientists at Cardiff University discovered that there could be a link between exercise and dementia, with regular physical activity providing the answer to avoiding dementia in later life.
The research, which spanned 35 years in total, involved 2,235 participants; and revealed that although good diet and not smoking had an impact, exercise had the biggest influence in terms of reducing risk of dementia.
It found that there were five factors that seemed to affect levels of dementia; and these were not smoking, low bodyweight, good diet, low alcohol consumption and exercise.
Exercise: Single Most Important Factor
The participants who followed four of the five factors above showed a 60% reduction in dementia and cognitive decline rates. Exercise was identified as the strongest factor for reducing risk. Interestingly, they were also 70% less likely to have diabetes, heart disease or suffer a stroke, when compared with those who had none of the five factors.
Professor Peter Elwood, who led the study, comments: ‘The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population.’
Previous Studies Linking Exercise and Dementia
An earlier study, carried out by Edinburgh University, gathered brain scans of 638 people who were past the age of retirement. It demonstrated clearly that those who were the most physically active suffered less brain shrinkage throughout the 3 year assessment period than those who led more sedentary lives.
Professor James Goodwin, Age UK’s head of research, believes that the research emphasises the importance of remaining as active as possible, regardless of your age. He states: ‘It’s never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, for those of us who can, get active as we grow older.’
How to Introduce Exercise Into Your Life
Remember that any exercise is beneficial for the body; even if it is just taking regular walks a few days a week. If you haven’t exercised in a while, it’s important to take things gently to begin with and slowly increase duration and intensity as your body becomes more used to it.