New evidence shows that brawn can be good for your brain. Experts say that only six months of strength training, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands, helps protect areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer's disease for up to a year.
Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia conducted a clinical trial with older people who were at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease due to mild cognitive impairment.
The study participants were allocated to do computer training, strength training, or combined computer and strength training for six months, according to a University of Sydney news release.
The study found that strength training led to overall benefits in cognitive performance and reduced the deterioration of the hippocampus part of the brain, which is associated with learning and memory. The participants did various forms of strength training such as lifting weights or using gym equipment for only 90 minutes, two to three times weekly, to achieve the benefits.
"Our research shows that strength training can protect the hippocampal subregions from degeneration or shrinkage for up to 12 months after the training stopped," said Dr. Kathryn Broadhouse who led the study. Experts say that strength or resistance training should become an integral part of dementia-reducing risk strategies.
Noted expert Dr. Gary Small, author of "2 Weeks to a Younger Brain" and the Mind-Body Health Report, tells Newsmax that according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, up to half the Alzheimer's cases are potentially attributable to "modifiable risk factors."
Some other ways to reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease are:
- Stay mentally fit. Formal education in any stage of life can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Take classes online or at a local community center or college.
- Butt out. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer's to that of people who have not smoked. The research is clear that smoking can lead to cognitive decline.
- Follow your heart. The same risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health.
- Heads up. Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Fuel up right. Eating a balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables promotes brain health. Research shows that people who follow diets designed to promote cardiovascular health are also more likely to maintain strong cognitive function in old age.
- Catch some ZZZs. Studies have found "significant association between sleep disordered breathing and the accumulation of biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease," according to the Alzheimer's Association. See a healthcare professional if you have trouble sleeping.
- Buddy up. Staying socially active may indeed support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you, even if they are virtual, notes Dr. Small.
- Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind by doing puzzles and playing games that require strategic thinking like bridge or chess, says Small. "Exercise your brain like you'd exercise your muscles," he says. "Keep challenging yourself."
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