The simple way to keep your brain young

Source: NZ Herald online (abridged)




Health & Wellbeing

Better cardiorespiratory fitness is the key to cutting the risk of Alzheimer’s, and you don’t need to sweat until you drop at the gym either. It’s possible to walk our way to a younger brain. In a nine-year study examining the link between fitness and Alzheimer’s risk, researchers at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) found that those with the highest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were 33 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who were least fit. But 10k sprints and spin classes aren’t essential. The AAN notes: “For the middle-aged and older, the highest level of fitness can be achieved by walking briskly most days, for two and a half hours or more per week.” Compelling evidence already exists in the ‘Blue Zones’ (the five areas of the world where populations are blessed with unusual longevity and better health including brain health), where dementia is about 75 per cent less prevalent in their communities than in the global average. Much has been made of the diets – typically a Mediterranean regimen low on meat and high in plants, pulses, nuts and fish – but in these regions, there’s no tradition of sweating till you drop at the gym or grinding out marathons; however, people walk over 10,000 steps during their day. Moderate, regular, prolonged activity is a way of life. While, say, three weekly spin classes are beneficial, they’re not enough to counteract the effects of just sitting at a desk the rest of the time. An active lifestyle (weaving regular movement and exertion into the structure of your daily life, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift) as well as “purposeful exercise” (eg brisk walking to increase heart rate) is key. If you sit for over 10 hours a day, you can go to the gym all you like – those benefits are undermined by that inactivity. People who are inactive have a higher risk of high blood pressure, of high blood glucose, high fat content in the body, especially around the waist, and high cholesterol – or what’s called metabolic syndrome, a collection of recordable measurements which tells us we’re at risk of chronic long-term illness. Exercise reduces the risk of those features appearing. Keeping your blood pressure low, blood sugar low and the fat round your waist down, not only will you reduce your risk of chronic long-term illness, you will also increase your brain health.