Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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Dementia can be a devastating diagnosis for the patient, as well as their loved ones. The term refers to a group of symptoms associated with the continuous decline of the brain and includes the most common forms; Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. More than 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia but this number is expected to continue to rise.

While there is no cure for dementia, there are ways to help manage the symptoms.

It is also believed certain factors can lower your risk of developing the condition in the first place.

Research published in the Brain Sciences journal this year revealed three lifestyle choices that maintain the “basic structures of a person’s brain function”.

The paper, which was written by academics from Norway and Iceland, explained how motion (physical exercise), relation (socialising) and passion (having strong interests) can keep your brain working.

“Several lines of evidence argue in favour of the idea that a positive effect of motion on brain physiology exists,” it says.

“An active lifestyle has shown to contribute to the development of the central nervous system and to contrast brain ageing.

“Interpersonal relationships, and interactions, have shown to contribute to complex biological factors that benefit the cognitive resilience to decline.

“Furthermore, the current scientific literature suggests that passion, strong interest, could be the driving factor motivating individuals to learn new things, thus influencing the development and maintenance of the neural functional network over time.”

Motion

The paper suggests that physical activity at all ages can influence the function of the brain.

“Several lines of evidence argue in favour of the idea that a positive effect of motion on brain physiology exists ,” it says.

“Observational studies have shown that an active lifestyle is helpful for maintaining cognitive and neurological health for all age groups.

“It has been shown that brain white matter in children is more developed for those that exercise more and elderly that exercise more maintain a higher brain functionality compared to those that are less physically active.”

Relation

The findings vouch for a “large” social circle for good brain health. It says: “Studies have indicated that good social relations may inhibit cognitive decline and build cognitive reverse directly and indirectly through various mechanisms.

“A large number of social ties such as friends, family, and neighbours and their engagements, increase complexity and mental stimulation. Maintaining these relations and creating new ones requires effort and skills.

“Social relations may therefore enhance cognitive reverse through cognitive strategies, greater neural growth, and synaptic density, which protects against pathological processes.

“Studies suggest that people with poor relationships have poor cognitive functions later in life.”

Passion

The study adds: “Exercising your mind is important to maintain and establish new neural networks or stronger connections between existing neural connections. However, keeping your mind active is not done automatically.

“Based on the principles of neural plasticity, the extension and formation of new synapses is a result of an active mind.

“Research indicates that both younger and older adults show improvements with memory training.

“An individual’s passion towards a certain theme, topic, ability, or activity is important in maintaining an active mind.”

The findings were compiled via the analysis of more than 100 existing research papers.

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