Burning Calories Regularly Increases Grey Matter Density in Brain, Decreases Risk of Alzheimer’s
We all lose cognitive function and gray matter in our brains with age, but those of us with Alzheimer’s or beginning cognitive impairments from early stages of dementia experience more dramatic declines of gray matter volume. Gray matter holds all of the brain’s neurons, so its volume reflects neuronal health. A new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UCLA shows that high calorie burning exercise over your lifetime can help decrease probability of developing these conditions, and lessen the rate of gray matter deterioration in physically active elders already diagnosed with dementia symptoms.
Don’t Slow Down With Age: Treatments for Alzheimers and dementia have limited effectiveness, so the discovery that preventative or slowing measures exist is critical. A tricky obstacle is the human tendency to slow physical activity, or even become sedentary, as one reaches old age. However, the study shows strong correlation between maintaining regular physical activity and one’s brain health.
The Scientific Method: 876 people of age 65 or older participated in the cardiovascular health study. The subjects had periodic brain scans and cognitive assessments over a five year period. Participants were also regularly surveyed on their physical activity levels, whether their exercise of choice was walking, tennis, dancing and/or golfing, to determine weekly calorie expenditure or energy output.
Gray Results: When mathematically analyzing the data results, researchers discovered that those participants who burned the most calories had greater volumes of gray matter in the brain’s frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. These are the areas associated with memory, learning, and performance of complex cognitive tasks. The subjects mentioned had more gray matter at the beginning of the study, and were half as likely to have developed Alzheimer’s five years later. Additionally, those subjects who increased regular physical activity over the study’s course had an increased volume of gray matter at the study’s end.
Hope For The Future: Technology is improving, and this study proves that once neuroimaging allows for baseline studies of people at risk for dementia or who already have mild cognitive impairment, it may be possible for physicians to prescribe lifestyle changes, such as an exercise plan, as a measure to prevent further deterioration of memory.