The Best Treatment for Preventing Dementia

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around” -Thomas A. Edison

     We all know that as we grow older our bodies slowly start to slow down. Which is why going to the gym can be so important! By staying active and healthy you slow down the decline of your body. Although, this doesn’t only apply to your muscles and joints, it also applies to your brain! According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), exercise has been shown to increase your brain’s memory capacity and the ability to think quickly. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and by 2050 the expected Alzheimer population will reach 16 million. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that occurs slowly and is characterized by problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common form of dementia and can become severe enough to hinder daily activities. Even though scientists are still stumped to the specific causes of Alzheimer’s, they have discovered a few things to delay the onset or prevent it.  What they have found is that exercise is one of the best means to prevent the onset of dementia!

     The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal has discovered that exercising can help increase neural plasticity and help form neural connections in your brain.  In other words, exercising can help keep your brain witty, sharp, and quick to react! It has also been shown that cardiovascular exercise can decrease brain deterioration and increase neurotrophins.  Neurotrophins are forms of protein that help your brain cells to function, so they are kind of like a “Miracle-Gro” for the brain—and exercise helps increase it!    

     Even the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease states, “Exercising for 150 minutes each week may be the best treatment for Alzheimer’s.”   John J. Ratey, MD and professor at Harvard University and author of A User’s Guide to the Brain states, “Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being."

     Now that you have heard all these wonderful things about the effects exercise can have on brain health, you might be wondering what you can do to get these benefits.  Research by Colcombe, S., et al, found that brain tissue losses were substantially decreased by cardiovascular exercise.  A study done by the Exercise Science Department at the University of Georgia has found that even as little as 20 minutes of exercise increases brain function – memory retention and quick thinking. Also, exercising to music forces your brain to think of the physical as well as mental demands, which gives your brain a little added workout.  At the Bradley Wellness Center, we offer many group classes that can give you a great workout while following music. You can also take advantage of the over 110 cardio and weight machines we have to increase your brain capacity. So come on down to the Bradley Wellness Center and let us help you decrease your chances of dementia!

Written by: Caroline Proctor, Intern, Bradley Wellness Center