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cognitive decline

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Senior Brains Benefit from Physical Activity

Leisure-time physical activity is beneficial in reducing cognitive decline in seniors.

Researchers with the Northern Manhattan Study have found that low levels of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) in seniors is an independent risk factor for declining cognitive performance compared to moderate to heavy intensity LTPA. More than 1200 participants were followed for 5 years. The data was adjusted for confounders, including vascular disease. 

PositiveTip: It is never too late to begin regular physical activity--it benefits even seniors!

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Alcohol Accelerates Cognitive Decline

Drinking 2.5 drinks per day adds 5.7 years of cognitive aging to middle-age men.

Middle-aged men who drink 2.5 alcoholic drinks each day (36 grams of alcohol) are significantly more likely to experience cognitive decline in all areas, especially memory. This association for women was not as strong, but women who drink 19 grams or more of alcohol each day seem to experience faster declines in executive function. The specific type of beverage consumed made little difference.

PositiveTip: Preserve your brain's health--avoid all alcohol!

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Older Danes Seem to be Getting Sharper

Age-related cognitive decline in the very old has improved in Denmark.

Good news for those getting older! A Danish cohort study has found that men and women born in 1915 were mentally sharper in 2010 (age 94 and 95) compared to those born in 1905 and assessed in 1998 (age 92 and 93). The 1915 cohort also had significantly better activities of daily living scores than did the 1905 group. The authors did not postulate as to the reasons for these improvements.

PositiveTip: Making healthy choices today may support not only longer life, but a better quality of life as well.

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Move It or Lose It

Staying on the move every day slows cognitive decline.

A recent study shows that the most active older adults are 2.3 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) during a 3.5 year follow-up than the least active group. In this study, a group of 716 people with an average age of 82 wore an actigraph for 10 continous days. This small sensor recorded all participants' exercise, including activities like cooking, house cleaning, and moving a wheelchair with their arms. Combined with self-reported data, these results showed that the highly active group experienced the best outcomes.

PositiveTip: Keep moving! Total daily activity may reduce the risk of AD at any age!

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Omega-3 Supplements Do Little to Slow Cognitive Decline

Contrary to popular opinion, omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer patients.

A randomized trial gave either a placebo or 2 grams a day of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to about 400 adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer Disease (AD) for 18 months. At the end of treatment there was no difference between the groups, showing that these supplements did not slow the rate of cognitive decline. 

PositiveTip: DHA supplementation probably results in little improvement among patients with AD.

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Walking Frequently Increases Gray Matter

Walking frequently lowers risk for cognitive decline years later.

Almost 300 healthy adults aged 65 or older reported how much they walked per week. Nine years later they had MRI brain scans. Those who walked at least 72 blocks (estimated 6-9 miles) per week had more gray matter volume compared to those who walked less. Greater gray matter volume reduced the risk for cognitive impairment 2-fold 4 years following the MRI.

PositiveTip: Physical activity seems to set off a cascade of cellular changes that increases gray matter volume--even in the elderly.

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Ginkgo Fails to Prevent Cognitive Decline

Large study finds no evidence that ginkgo slows cognitive decline in elders.

Americans spend more than $250 million each year on the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba with the hope it will improve their long-term cognitive function. The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, the largest-ever clinical trial has reported that those taking 120 mg of ginkgo extract twice daily did no better than a placebo in slowing down cognitive decline in older participants. These results come after following 3000+ people ranging in age from 72 to 96 years old over a period of 6 years.. These results are consistent with previous smaller studies.

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Exercise and Diet Lower Risk of Dementia

Mediterranean-type diet and exercise linked to less late-life cognitive impairment.

Two recent observational studies found physical activity and a Mediterranean-type diet are associated with lower risks of cognitive decline in elders. The first was a US study of 2000 elders followed for five years. Close adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet and regular physical activity (even light activity like gardening) independently resulted in significantly less Alzheimer disease. The second study of 1400 French elders found close adherence to a similar diet resulted in slower cognitive decline. 

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Anxiety May Predict Later Dementia

Staying calm may protect against dementia!

How can one predict the development of dementia in later life? A new prospective study may shed some light on this question. Using a standardized anxiety inventory and later cognitive status in almost 1200 men followed for 17 years, researchers found that those with high anxiety levels at baseline were significantly more likely to develop dementia. While this report does not establish a causal link, it strongly suggests that managing stress and anxiety positively may influence quality of life the later years.

PositiveTip: A wise man once said: "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones." Proverbs 17:22