Vascular dementia, the second most common dementia (Alzheimer’s disease ranks first) can be held at bay by walking and other forms of moderate exercise.
The study, conducted in Italy, included 749 men and women over the age of 65. None of the participants had memory problems at the beginning of the study. Participants were not asked to change their exercise habits, but the researchers monitored the amount of energy exerted in the regular weekly activities of the subjects. Walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, house work, and other moderate activities were recorded.
By the end of the four years, 54 people had developed Alzheimer’s disease, and 27 were diagnosed with vascular dementia. Those people in the top third as far as energy exertion due to walking were 27% less likely to develop vascular dementia as compared with those in the bottom third.
The results were independent of demographic, medical or genetic factors. Dr. Giovanni Ravaglia, the study's author, noted that walking provided the same benefits as more demanding activities. He says this may be due to improved cerebral blood flow caused by the exercise, but more research will be needed to learn the mechanism of the benefit.
This study did not support other findings that physical activity reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but Ravaglia says more research is needed before concluding that Alzheimer’s disease is not preventable through exercise.
read the full article at Caregiver's Home Companion, "Walking and Moderate Exercise Help Prevent Dementia", Jan 2, 2008
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