Prevent memory decline by being more physically active and caring for your heart

According to a recent study, both overall physical fitness and the stiffness of the central arteries can help shed light on the how fast certain aspects of memory decline.

Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University who authored the study looked at the mechanisms that affect the cognitive performance of older people who live independently.

How the research was done

Greg Kennedy, a doctoral student and the study’s lead author, explained that starting from early adulthood, one’s memory and other aspects of cognition gradually start to decline, with the risk of developing dementia in later life increasing over the years.

He says that while the exact reason for this risk remains unknown, research implies that exercise and physical fitness can help prevent it. According to experts, a healthier and more elastic aorta can also help prevent cognitive decline by minimizing the harmful effects of excessive blood pressure on the brain. (Related: Older adults who exercise for 6 months have healthier brains.)

For the study, the researchers tried to determine if a healthier aorta was the link between physical fitness and better cognition.

The study participants, who hailed from Melbourne, Australia, were aged 60 to 90 years old. The 102 volunteers, 73 females and 29 males, were all living independently in aged-care communities.

The researchers assessed their fitness using the Six-Minute Walk test. All of the participants were asked to walk back and forth between two markers placed 10 meters apart for six minutes.

Only the volunteers who were able to complete the full six-minute test were included in the analysis, which measured the stiffness of the participant’s arteries and cognitive performance.

Kennedy said that as individuals age, they are often less fit. Elderly people also have a greater chance of having stiffer arteries. These two factors could help explain memory decline, which is usually associated with “getting older.”

While physical fitness didn’t influence central arterial stiffness, Kennedy noted that the study only assessed current fitness. It was possible that long-term fitness could be a more efficient way of determining arterial stiffness among the elderly.

He added that there is currently no long-term medical approach known to effectively mitigate memory decline or prevent dementia.

Kennedy concluded that, based on the results of the study, exercising regularly and keeping an eye on central arterial health is an important and cost-effective way to maintain both memory and brain function as you age.

The study is entitled, “Better physical fitness and lower aortic stiffness key to slower brain aging,” and was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Tips to help boost brain health

Aside from regular physical exercise, these activities can help improve your brain health as you age:

  • Engage your brain – Read more books and magazines about topics that interest you to keep your brain sharp.
  • Follow a healthy diet – Include more fish and green leafy vegetables in your diet. By eating healthily, you can even lower your risk for diseases linked to dementia, like Alzheimer’s. Add the following nutrient-rich vegetables to your diet: collard greens, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. Meanwhile, foods rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids include Atlantic salmon, flaxseed oil, halibut, kiwi, Pacific herring, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and walnuts.
  • Try solving various kinds of puzzles – Puzzles can also help sharpen brain function. Try different puzzles like Sudoku or crossword puzzles.

You can read more articles about the benefits of regular exercise and natural ways to look and feel younger at

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