Dementia is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. today, and experts say the next generation could see twice as many people suffering from it, particularly in old age. But avoiding the brain-deteriorating disease could be as simple as remembering to exercise just a few times a week, according to a new study, which appears to inhibit the expression of the “dementia gene.”
Over the course of 18 months, researchers from the University of Maryland measured the brain sizes of elderly participants who were divided into four groups. The activity levels of each of the participants were gauged in conjunction with whether or not they possessed a gene known as APOE-e4, which has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Up to 30 percent of the population possesses this gene, and the research team wanted to see whether or not physical exertion affects its expression. What they found is that those with APOE-e4 who exercised at least three times a week experienced a lesser overall decrease in brain mass, a common sign of dementia, compared to those who engaged in little or no exercise.
“We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals,” stated Dr. J. Carson Smith, one of the study’s authors. “Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group.”
Don’t forget proper nutrition in the fight against dementia
Published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the study provides new insights into the mind-body connection, and the importance of physical exertion in maintaining a healthy brain. Though exercise alone is hardly the best approach, as nutrition is equally if not more important for preserving brain function, it is vital for maintaining good health, especially in old age.
“We do not yet have the level of exercise needed to justify this approach specifically for Alzheimer’s prevention,” added Dr. Smith, as quoted by the UK’s Daily Mail. “[B]ut exercise certainly cannot harm, so should be prescribed regardless.”
To go along with this, avoiding certain foods and chemical exposures and embracing better dietary and lifestyle habits will duly help in the fight against dementia. Though it defies conventional thinking, consuming more saturated fats, for instance, from foods like coconut oil, pastured butter and ghee, and pastured animals, will feed your brain the nutrients it needs for proper repair and function.
“The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today,” wrote neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter in his New York Times best-selling book Grain Brain.
The low-fat diet still being propagated by many health authorities, on the other hand, which ends up driving people to eat more sugar and grain instead, is actually a major cause of brain degeneration. Even “whole grains” and other types of so-called complex carbohydrates can be damaging, especially when they contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners in lieu of naturally flavorful and satiating saturated fat.
“Carbohydrates typically thought of as healthy, even brown rice, 100% whole grain bread, or quinoa–mainstays of many of the most health-conscious kitchens–cause disorders like dementia, ADHD, chronic headaches,” added Dr. Perlmutter.
“By removing these carbohydrates from the diet–harbingers of inflammation, the true source of problems that plague our brains and hearts–and increasing the amount of fat and cholesterol we consume, we can not only protect our most valuable organ, but also potentially, undo years of damage.”