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Healthy Eating and Exercise Can Keep Your Brain Young

February 8, 2019 by

It?s widely known that eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise are critical factors to living in good health. But recent studies have confirmed just how beneficial these things are to your brain health and that they can possibly reverse some of the detrimental effects of aging on the brain.

A recent study found that even people who already display signs of cognitive aging, such as difficulties thinking, can improve their brain function by exercising on a regular basis and eating a healthier diet. In this study, 160 people over the age of 55 began the study exhibiting thinking skills equivalent to people in their 90s, which was about 28 years older than the participant.

The study’s volunteers were split into four groups: one group added an exercise regime to their schedule, another started a low-sodium diet, a third group made both of these changes, and a fourth group acted as a control group and continued with their normal exercise and diet routine, but were given educational classes on ways they could improve their brain health.

The group who changed both their diet and exercise showed marked improvements in cognitive tests after a six month time period. Their test scores showed a nine year improvement in their cognitive health, meaning their brain age resembled that of an 84 year old after the six month period rather than a 90 year old. The control group continued a decline on their test scores, and there was not a significant change in the scores of either group who changed only their diet or only their exercise.

This study shows that it is never too late to improve your brain health, even if you have limited brain function. None of the participants in the study lived an active lifestyle when the study began, and while all of them were showing signs of cognitive decline, none suffered from dementia.

Each participant also had one or more one heart-disease related risk factors, which is significant because researchers know that proper blood circulation is acritical part of maintaining cognitive function because the brain needs oxygen-rich blood to properly function.

While the researchers admit that diet and exercise are not a cure for dementia, they were impressed at the impact these lifestyle changes made on the participants’ brain health. Because a pharmaceutical intervention to prevent dementia does not yet exist, having this starting point of living a healthier lifestyle can have significant, positive implications down the road for people’s brain health.

The exercise program used in this study involved three months of supervised physical activity where the participants ran on a treadmill or used a stationary bike at around 70% of their peak heart rates three times per week. The participants were then given an exercise regimen to do at home that was created by the researchers considering the participants’ schedule and resources, including convenience, access to a gym, using equipment they already owned, or speed walking in their neighborhood.

The diet group stuck to a diet that emphasized reducing their intake of salt and increasing fiber to help control their blood pressure and improve their cardiovascular health.

As previously mentioned, the participants in the groups who changed only one of these two factors did not display significant increases in their brain functioning, which may be due to the fact that the study was perhaps too small to be able to say there was an officially significant difference.

Because those who followed both the diet and exercise programs exhibited the greatest improvements to their cognitive health, it suggests that these two lifestyle changes can work together to improve brain health, meaning that exercising and eating a healthy diet can improve brain function and possibly postpone one’s development of dementia in their later years.

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