Among the most frequent human fears is the loss of memory. Whether it is the result of Alzheimer’s disease or its recently identified predecessor, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), the inability to recognize loved ones and remember recent events vastly diminishes quality of life.
MCI represents a transition state between cognitive impairment from normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than the normal aging population.
There is now an expanding body of data indicating that moderate, regular exercise will help avoid this tragic situation.
At this year’s meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, several research presentations addressed Alzheimer’s and MCI.
One of the most intriguing reports was presented by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. They studied 868 individuals between the ages of 70 and 89. They looked at the exercise habits of these people during the ages of 50 through 65. The study found that those participants who exercised moderately (30 minutes or more) two to five times per week were less likely to develop MCI in later years.
Another proposed strategy for diminishing the likelihood of developing MCI emphasized the incorporation of an intellectually stimulating activity while exercising. This can be done by performing various mathematical problems while monitoring activity such as heart rate, miles, or steps per minute.
Other presentations dealt with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease in heavy drinkers (more than two alcoholic beverages per day) and smokers. High cholesterol levels in 40 to 50 year olds were also cited as precursors to Alzheimer’s disease. It is unknown if exercise stimulates the emission of a protecting substance that reduces the incidence of Alzheimer’s, or if it is one element in an overall healthier lifestyle necessary for better cognitive outcomes.
Based on these studies we can conclude that the combination of moderate exercise, no tobacco, a healthy diet limiting fats and alcohol, and intellectually stimulating activities will diminish the risk of severe cognitive impairment and improve our quality of life in later years.