Staying physically fit and participating in mentally-challenging activities can help keep your brain sharp as it ages. Scientists presenting at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Interantional Conference in Denmark presented data that shows that keeping physically active — whether from walking, dancing or riding a bike — can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment or MCI. More than 1,800 health seniors were followed for more than three years by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found thta those who participated in light physical activity had a lesser risk of development cognitive impairment than those who didn’t.
Other researchers have found that seniors who play mentally challenging games such as card games — Spades, anyone? — puzzles, reading books or going to museums also had a lesser risk of developing memory issues.
Lastly, scientists at the annual confernce added to the body of evidence that disruptive sleep can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. In a study of veterans, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found thatveterans who had a diagnosis of non-specific sleep disturbance, apnea, or insomnia at baseline had a 30 percent increased risk of dementia compared with veterans with no diagnosed sleep problems. They also found that veterans with both PTSD and sleep disturbance had an 80 percent increased risk of dementia.
While more research needs to be done, these findings suggest that staying physically fit, getting enough sleep and challenging your brain in middle age might keep memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.