Dementia may not yet have a cure, but scientists are getting closer to discovering how to reduce people’s risk of the condition and slow its onset.
New guidelines revealed this week put forward exercise as a key way to ward off debilitating symptoms, which include memory loss, issues with language and difficulty thinking.
Fresh recommendations, published in the journal Neurology, suggest that people who are beginning to show signs of mild cognitive impairment could benefit from being active twice a week.
“Regular physical exercise has long been shown to have heart health benefits, and now we can say exercise also may help improve memory for people with mild cognitive impairment,” said Ronald Petersen, lead study author from the Mayo Clinic.
“What’s good for your heart can be good for your brain.”
He recommends those at risk walk briskly, or jog or do another type of aerobic activity for a total of 150 minutes a week.
People need to work hard enough to break a sweat, but do not need to exert themselves to the extent that they can’t hold a conversation.
Mild cognitive impairment is defined as the stage between the expected cognitive decline associated with normal ageing and the early stages of dementia.
Sufferers tend to have difficulty with memory, language, thinking and judgement that are more serious than might be associated with getting older.
Mild cognitive impairment is thought to lead to an increased risk of dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK.
However, it is possible for people with the condition to get better.
The new recommendations for doctors in the United States come as research revealed in April by the University of Canberra endorsed running, walking, yoga and tai chi as ways to boost brain power.
Researchers behind the new guidelines discovered that people with mild cognitive impairment who exercised twice a week were better able to manage symptoms.
In addition to working out, making tweaks to your diet could also be beneficial.
The past year has seen oily fish, mushrooms and salad enshrined as ‘brain foods’ by scientists who have shown that eating them could stave off memory loss.
There are currently 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, and the most common form of the condition is Alzheimer’s disease.