Cognitive function is the ability to recall facts and other information at will – begins to deteriorate around age 40. Once you reach that age, your brain naturally starts losing about five percent of its volume every decade.
The loss of brain cells begins slowly, along with some of its connections. A more rapid development of this problem is called “brain atrophy,” which develops after someone gets dementia.
Sometimes, symptoms will only affect part of the brain, but in others, it can affect the entire brain. Preventing or slowing this development down is necessary, and there are ways to do it.
Brisk Walking Had the Best Results
Among several exercises tested to see which ones for seniors would best slow the development of dementia, one stood out above the others – brisk walking. Walking was tested against people who regularly used stretching and balance exercises. The test lasted for six months.
Walking is one of the easiest exercises for most people because it requires no equipment – except good walking shoes. Bringing along a friend will make it more interesting, as well as finding a good and safe place to walk. Of course, you could also walk at home on a treadmill.
Studies have also revealed just how much walking is recommended to prevent or reduce dementia. Harvard suggests that you walk 3,800 steps at a brisk pace, which is about two miles.
Slower Walking Speed May Indicate Dementia
One study completed last year revealed that when walking speed slows more than five percent per year, along with poorer results on cognitive tests, it indicates the presence of dementia. Both symptoms are the result of brain shrinkage and may be the best way to predict the presence of dementia.
Exercise Increases Neuroplasticity
The word neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to change for the better. It can create new connections and grow, which will help improve cognitive function.
The reason that your walking needs to be brisk is because it increases your heart rate. It increases the blood flow to the brain, and along with it comes the nutrients you need for better brain function.
One thing that will increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia is smoking. A look at 37 different studies revealed that people who currently smoke increase the possibility of developing dementia by 30%. The likelihood that they may develop Alzheimer’s is even higher – 40%.
Avoid Excessive Napping
Nearly all seniors are going to take naps. Research reveals a connection between excessive napping – two hours or longer – and dementia. Taking shorter naps of up to 30 minutes has not exposed any negative effects. The cause for the connection is not yet understood, but long naps can also make it difficult to sleep at night.
Sufficient Sleep Helps Clear the Brain
During the day, the brain accumulates proteins called beta-amyloid and tau. It is believed that when these proteins build up in the brain for extended periods, they contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The brain naturally cleans out these proteins when you get enough sleep – about eight hours for most people. Being sleep-deprived for even one night increases tau levels by up to 50%.
Manage Your Symptoms
If you have cardiovascular problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, managing those symptoms and stress can help prevent dementia. Reducing your stress levels will also help, as well as eating a Mediterranean diet.