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Walking an extra 30 minutes daily could cut dementia risk by 21%

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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Almost one million people in the UK are currently living with dementia, with that figure expected to rise. Depending on the type of dementia a person has it can affect memory and behaviour, making everyday life difficult for both them and their loved ones. Although there is no known cure yet, there are measures that can be taken to reduce your risk.

According to a new study, published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, daily exercise could significantly slash your risk of dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

More specifically, a team from the University of California San Diego, reported that each additional 31 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated with a 21 percent lower risk among women aged 65 and over.

This risk was also 33 percent lower with each extra 1,865 daily steps.

Senior author Andrea LaCroix and University of California professor, said preventing mental decline is “essential”.

She said: “Given that the onset of dementia begins 20 years or more before symptoms show, the early intervention for delaying or preventing cognitive decline and dementia among older adults is essential.”

As part of the research, researchers sampled data from 1,277 women as part of two Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) ancillary studies.

Participants wore accelerometers and went about their normal daily activities for up to a week to obtain accurate measures of physical activity and sitting.

The trackers showed the women averaged 3,216 steps, 276 minutes in light physical activities, 45.5 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 10.5 hours of sitting per day.

Light physical activity could include housework, gardening or walking.

And moderate-to-vigorous physical activity included brisk walking.

These results were then cross-referenced with the incident rate of mild cognitive impairment and probable dementia in the Women’s Health Initiative.

“Physical activity has been identified as one of the three most promising ways to reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, “ Professor LaCroix added.

“Prevention is important because once dementia is diagnosed, it is very difficult to slow or reverse. There is no cure.”

The study also showed that higher amounts of sitting and prolonged sitting were not associated with higher risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

However, the team hoped the research would highlight the importance of daily exercise among older people.

First author Steven Nguyen said: “Older adults can be encouraged to increase movement of at least moderate intensity and take more steps each day for a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

“The findings for steps per day are particularly noteworthy because steps are recorded by a variety of wearable devices increasingly worn by individuals and could be readily adopted.”

Dementia is more common among women than men.

However, the study authors believe more extensive research on the subject, that includes men, is needed.

Some common early symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • Being confused about time and place
  • Mood changes.

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of dementia, speak to a GP.

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  • Posted on January 26, 2023