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Reduce the Risk of Dementia by 40%!

The risk of suffering from dementia is higher if you have type 2 diabetes. Now studies show that there is a treatment that reduces the risk of dementia by 40%.

If this were a medication, it would have been an obvious success. But the new treatment is not a medication.

It is: long, daily walks!

äldre kvinna på en bänk som minns livet

Exercise Affects the Memory Center

It’s important to keep your memory and brain in good shape. We often think that the brain gets exercise through crossword puzzles, Sudoku or reading books. But the best exercise for the brain is actually physical activity.1,2

It started with researchers investigating which part of the brain in mice was most affected by the animals moving around. The researchers thought it should be the motor center, that is, the part of the brain that controls movement. But to the researchers’ surprise it was the memory center of the mice that was affected the most.3

Exercise Is Better than Crosswords for Memory

två pusselbitar som passar ihop

What is the situation like in humans? Another research group investigated the effect on memory from working crosswords compared with physical exercise. The individuals who solved a lot of crosswords got better at solving crosswords. But they got no general effects on memory.

On the other hand, both memory and concentration capacity increased in the participants who exercised regularly.3

Exercise Not Only Produces Bigger Muscles

The mechanisms behind these findings have also started to be mapped. Exercise strengthens the heart and causes increased blood flow to the brain. But exercise also has a direct effect on the nerve cells of the brain.4,5

Using a magnetic camera, the brain’s memory center was examined in 120 persons. With age, the memory center shrinks as nerve cells die, and on average the memory center reduces by 1% per year. The study showed that exercise not only halts the destruction of the nerve cells. In those who exercised regularly the memory center actually increased by 2% in one year. Thus, exercise not only produces bigger muscles. It also produces a larger memory center through increased formation of new nerve cells.

The exercise must be regular and long-term to produce these effects, but a forty-minute walk a few times a week seems to be enough. The effects become even greater with more intensive exercise.

en kvinna som går i naturen och upplever harmoni helhet och mening

Find a Form of Exercise that Gives You a Meaningful Experience

Exercise not only has long-term effects, however. Improvement of memory has also been seen immediately after exercise. It has been shown that research subjects remember 20% more words if they exercise before a language test. Being sedentary on the other hand makes us unfocused, worried and depressed. Standing up when we are reading a book or doing something at the desk not only helps us burn calories. It also helps us think better.3

The positive effects of exercise on blood sugar and blood pressure are well known. Surprisingly enough, exercise also seems to be central to the functioning of the brain.

Can you improve your memory with exercise?

References

1. Wueve J et al. Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women. JAMA 2004 22;292(12):1454-61

2. Hyodo K et al. The association between aerobic fitness and cognitive function in older men mediated by frontal lateralization. Neuroimage. 2016 15;125:291-300

3. Hansen A. [Hjärnstark]. 2016

4. Colcombre et al.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2004;101(9):3316-21 

5. Erickson KI et al. Neurobiology of aging. 2014. 35:S20-28

More to come

We are about to launch the full English version of the Swedish medical university initiative, PriusHealth, providing daily thought-provoking questions to unlock how you relate to yourself, to others, the larger us, as the way to improve your health.

Available both as an open website and a full guided program, it will be launched summer 2017. If you would like us to keep you informed of its launch and thereby get free access to more content, then click here.

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