The best-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Often overlooked is the second most common form of dementia; vascular cognitive impairment. This condition is caused by blood vessels becoming constrictive, resulting in a reduced blood flow to the brain. Simply stated, it makes the brain function less efficiently.
A great deal of study has been done, and continues for Alzheimer’s. This second most dementia condition has not received the same degree of research. We now have some research that shows a brisk walk three times a week can delay the onset of dementia and slow its progression when it occurs. The British Journal of Medicine (BMJ) conducted a study of people who had been diagnosed with Vascular Cognitive Impairment. None of the participants currently exercised and all agreed to visit the University of British Columbia Hospital every six months. They conducted a brain scan and testing on all participants and updated it after each visit. A random selection then participated in nutrition classes and a walking program of one-hour sessions three times a week. The walkers were asked to move briskly and raise their heart rates to about 65 percent of maximum capacity.
The results indicated the walking group and the non-walkers drifted apart. Most obviously, the walkers generally had lower blood pressures than the non-walkers. “But, more striking, their brains were working differently. The walker’s brains showed less activation in portions of the brain required for attention and rapid decision making than the brains of those in the control group”. (New York Times) The less someone’s brain had to work to maintain attention and make quick decisions, the better that person typically performed on the tests of general thinking ability. Simply stated, the walkers had more efficient brains and better thinking skills now than the non-walkers.
Many questions remain and this was only one study, but it reinforces the important lessons that keeping one’s blood pressure in normal range and exercising is important to so many elements of healthy living and helps to stave off or slow this form of dementia.
Alta Health patients are reminded they can have a blood pressure check at any time free of charge and without an appointment. Just walk in and ask, and you’ll be on your way in five minutes. No paperwork-No charge.