According to a recent study just published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, burning calories from physical activity is what preserves brain volume as we age, and is capable of slashing Alzheimer’s risk in half!
Although we’ve long known that being physically active is neuroprotective, this latest study shows a direct correlation between energy expenditure (calories burned from physical activity) and the volume of gray matter in our brains.
And excitingly, this brain boost is independent of cognitive status, meaning even elderly who have already begun to exhibit cognitive changes will benefit from increasing their activity level.
The results of these positive, exercise induced brain changes are dose dependent… meaning that the more calories an individual burns from daily activity, the greater the neuroprotection and the greater the volume of gray matter in the brain.
- Researchers followed 876 adults aged 65 and older for over 5 years.
- Patients were routinely assessed cognitively and with MRI of the brain directly, and their weekly energy output from physical activity was assessed.
- Confounding factors such as head size, age, and cognitive status were all adjusted for.
- The higher the energy expenditure, the larger the gray matter volume throughout the brain, including the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes, as well as in the hippocampus, thalamus and basal ganglia.
- It also moderated volume loss in the precuneus, posterior cingulate, and cerebellar vermis. In other words, increase brain volume and protection against age related changes throughout the brain, not just in one specific part!
- Exercising increases gray matter volume in exactly the physical areas of the brain that are central to cognitive function.
- The increased gray matter provided a twofold risk reduction of Alzheimer’s dementia in clinical follow up five years after the MRI imaging scans.
- The more physically active participants were, the larger their gray matter volume.
- For example, patients burning 500 calories daily from physical activity had larger grey matter volumes and less atrophy changes than patients only burning 50 calories a day from physical activity.
- The benefits were seen regardless of type or duration of exercise… suggesting it is simply the act of burning calories that alone moderates the neurodegenerative changes that are typically seen with aging.
The bottom line:
Physical activity grows the size of your brain
and lowers your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease years later.
Researchers feel that these protective changes can help fight dementia later in life regardless of amyloid in the brain and regardless of current cognitive status.
So to preserve brain volume and function, simply increase your level of physical activity, no matter what your age.
Activities that the participants typically participated in to increase their calorie burning and increase their brain volume included walking, tennis, dance, yoga and golf.
On top of exercising, what else can you do to prevent dementia and age-related brain changes?
By protecting your brain’s vasculature, decreasing inflammation, preventing stroke and treating high blood pressure, grounding your body might single handedly be the best thing you can do to preserve brain function over a lifetime.
Grounding not only decreases blood inflammatory markers, decreases high blood pressure and dilates blood vessels so that blood reaches end organs (such as the brain!) more effectively, it also flows more smoothly. Blood viscosity is decreased, red blood cells stick together less, and the function of the heart (in particular, heart rate variability) is improved.
2. Fish oil:
Shown to preserve brain volume as we age and decrease dementia rates, taking an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement that is animal based (like Krill Oil) is medically proven to support brain function.
High quality sleep is medically proven to protect brain function and poor quality sleep is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Melatonin naturally declines with age, so supplementing with melatonin if sleep depth and quality declines with age is an important way to protect and preserve brain function.
You can also:
Stay well hydrated to maintain alert cognition
eat organically (studies show that pesticides increase Alzheimers Risk)
avoid gluten (studies suggest that gluten is neurotoxic)
drink coffee (clinically shown to reduce dementia rates)
drink green tea or take green tea extract (medically shown to boost memory!)
take Vit D supplements (studies show low Vit D levels are linked to increased dementia rates)
take Resveratrol supplements (medically shown to stop the progression of Alzheimers plaques!)
treat any anxiety (studies show treating anxiety lengthens lifespan!)
meditate regularly (medically proven to be brain protective!)
and stay active (daily walking is the key!)
To a long and dementia free future, straight from the medical literature to you!