Dementia is a horrific neurological disorder and disease that impacts more than 46.8 million people worldwide, with experts believing that this number will double every 20 years. This would mean that the number would hit 75 million people living with dementia in 2030 (just 10 years away) and 131.5 million people living with dementia by the time 2050 rolls around.
Worse, while dementia affects older people more often than not it is anything but a normal part of the aging process. This is a horrific syndrome that can be chronic or progressive in nature and while researchers understand a lot more about dementia today than they ever did before they still do not fully understand the why or the how behind dementia as of yet.
Thankfully though, teams of researchers around the world – especially those working to combat similar diseases like Alzheimer’s – are pooling their resources together to come up with ways to protect the brain and armor the body against these kinds of diseases specifically.
New research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh shows that it may be possible to protect your brain by doing nothing more than walking at least 2 km every day – particularly after you hit the age of 60.
These researchers believe that this 30 minute (on average) free approach to exercise is enough to significantly improve your odds of pushing back against dementia and Alzheimer’s, protecting your brain while providing a defense against these conditions and syndromes that quite literally shrink your brain tissue as they get progressively worse.
The conclusions drawn by the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are not necessarily groundbreaking, however. It’s long been understood that regular physical exercise does a great job of protecting the brain in general – though the overall process for how this works is pretty complex and intertwined with a variety of other biochemical and physiological reactions that occur when you are physically active.
Strength and cardiovascular training protocols help to improve your heart health as well as the vitality of your blood vessels. This works to supply better blood to your brain cells, blood used to fuel the brain activity that directs your muscles while you are exercising – working to “train and exercise” your brain while you are training and exercising the rest of your body.
On top of that, researchers show that intense physical exertion also improves overall growth factors throughout the body like BDNF. These kinds of growth factors work to supply your brain cells with a more efficient means of communication with one another, allowing your neural network to make more connections that are stronger and more resistant to neurological syndromes and diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Most interesting of all, however, is the fact that the new research published by the University of Pittsburgh shows that individuals over the age of 60 that exercise on a regular basis (as well as those that eat a healthier diet) reduce their risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia by more than 50%.
This is huge, especially considering the fact that individuals over 60 lose a significant portion of their brain mass annually – reductions in brain mass that researchers until just recently believed was not only 100% permanent but also 100% inevitable as a direct result of the natural aging process.
It turns out that exerting yourself for at least 30 minutes every day (like walking 2 km, for example) is enough to push back significantly on this brain mass shrinkage. This may not be a “cure” for dementia or Alzheimer’s but it is an effective solution to lower your risk into lead a happier and healthier lifestyle as you age more gracefully.