Brain and brawn

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: September 4th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For long-term brain health, it might be wise to put down that book of crossword puzzles and go for a brisk walk.

The brain and the body are undeniably united. So it might not come as a surprise that the first signs an elderly person is likely to experience dementia are physical rather than mental.

Findings from a recent study conducted by University of Washington and the V-A Puget Sound Health Care System indicate that physical and mental ability in the elderly are linked.

Gait slowing and poor balance were more common in nearly twenty-three-hundred study participants who later developed Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. And subjects with poor grip strength were the first to be diagnosed with the disease.

But even more surprisingly, the same research group found evidence in an earlier study that exercise may actually help ward off dementia.

Previous studies have suggested that regular exercise protects against mental decline by improving blood flow to the brain. This research team found that exercise among older adults may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In fact, study subjects who reported exercising three times a week or more developed Alzheimer’s a third less often than people who exercised less.

So, for brain health an easy tactic may just include giving your sofa a rest and putting your feet to the pavement. And it might be time for those people who say you are what you eat to consider a new phrase: ponder while you wander.