Older brains are more agile under the influence of a daily portion of leafy greens. Give the leafy greens precedence over other fruit and veg when trying to hit your 5-a-day
Talking openly and honestly about highly emotive topics like Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia in general, is a very delicate matter. Given the prevailing time pressures of live television and the quick/punchy explanations that it requires, there is always the potential to be misunderstood. This means that really hot topics must occasionally be left out in case they have the unintended effect of causing undue anxiety as opposed to the specific intention: inspiring the public with what we can do to hang onto our marbles well into old age. This brainpost reveals a new breakthrough in our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, deemed too risky to mention live on ITV1’s This Morning in mid-August in case it was misconstrued, but which may one day be instrumental in keeping dementia at bay in each and every one of us.
Contrast the lifestyles of people in their seventies who do and do not suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and clues about how to keep your brain ticking over nicely, well into old age, jump right out at you. Those who do not suffer with this dreaded disease tend to have been more committed to a regular exercise regime throughout their later years. They tend to have been more engaged in a wider array of social activities. They tend to have been careful with their diet in the long term, favouring a healthy Meditteranean-style diet over a typical modern Western diet. They also tend to have been more proactively involved with their local community and more motivated to seek regular mental stimulation. People are now being advised to adopt a variety of brain-healthy habits if they wish to reduce the likelihood of developing cognitive deficits that the progression of Alzheimer’s disease can, but does not always, induce.
Although we cannot halt the inexorable process of grey matter loss completely, the good news is that we can slow its progression. This month a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and published in the journal “Neurology” describes the influence of regular exercise on the rate of reduction of brain volume and cognitive function in 299 elderly individuals.
It was observed that those individuals of this group of average age 78 who walked in excess of 6 miles per week had a significantly reduced rate of grey matter loss and consequently a lower incidence of cognitive decline. The greater the distance walked each week, the smaller the reduction in volume over a 9 year period within their frontal lobe, occipital lobe, entorhinal cortex and critically, in the hippocampus.
This begs the question – how and why does exercise slow down the rate at which grey matter shrinks?