A 1-Hour Walk, 3 Times a Week, Has Benefits for Dementia
Exercise may bolster the brain function and thinking skills of people with dementia, according to a new report. The study’s findings suggest that walking a few times per week might alter the trajectory of the disease and improve the physical well-being of people who develop a common form of age-related memory loss that otherwise has few treatments.
The study looked at vascular cognitive impairment, the second most frequent form of dementia worldwide, after the better-known Alzheimer’s disease. The condition arises when someone’s blood vessels become damaged and blood no longer flows well to the brain. It is often associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.
One of the particular hallmarks of vascular dementia in its early stages, researchers have found, is that it tends to make the brain function less efficiently. In past brain-scan studies, people with a diagnosis of vascular cognitive impairment generally showed more neural activity in parts of their brains that are involved with memory, decision-making and attention than did people without the disease, indicating that their brains had to work harder during normal thinking than healthier brains did.
But while a great deal of research attention has been devoted to Alzheimer’s disease, less has been known about the progression of and potential curbs on vascular dementia. Some research has indicated that reducing blood pressure lessens the symptoms of the disease.
Exercise can likewise improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health. And some research suggests that frequent, brisk walks may improve memory and physical abilities in those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. But, rather surprisingly, few past studies had examined whether exercise might also improve brain function in people with vascular dementia
by GRETCHEN REYNOLDS MAY 24, 2017
A version of this article appears in print on May 30, 2017, on Page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Brisk Walks May Slow Dementia.