A recent article in the New York Times discussed the relationship between the physical exercise of walking and the impact of vascular cognitive impairment. Vascular dementia is the second most diagnosed form of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease. It is characterized by damaged blood vessels which impair blood flow to the brain. Patients often are also living with high blood pressure and heart disease. There has been some research to indicate that reducing blood pressure lessens the symptoms of the disease, such as inefficient brain function.
The article cites a recent study led by the University of British Columbia in Canada which investigated the effects of walking on vascular dementia. Findings were published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine in April 2017. The university lab measured the general health and memory skills of 38 older adult volunteers who already been diagnosed with an early, mild form of the disease. The volunteers all reported that they did not currently exercise. The university lab additionally did brain scans to reveal how hard different parts of the brain were working, also referred to as neural activity.
Randomly assigned volunteers then engaged in supervised, one-hour sessions at the lab in which they walked briskly. While walking, they were all able to reach the intensity of roughly 65 percent of their maximum capacity. A control group of volunteers came to the lab to engage in education sessions about healthy living. The study had a short duration of six months. Volunteers had repeated physical and cognitive tests, as well as brain scans. Findings showed that the walkers’ “brains showed less activation in portions of the brain required for attention and rapid decision-making than did the brains of those in the control group,” meaning that the walkers’ brains were not working as hard as the control group to complete these tasks. They found that those who engaged in the walking had better thinking skills and brain efficiency than those who were in the control group.
Researchers also noted that it is imperative that anyone with cognitive problems consult their doctor before starting any kind of exercise program to discuss what exercise level and supervision would be more beneficial.
To read more of the New York Times article published in May 2017, visit https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/well/move/a-1-hour-walk-3-times-a-week-has-benefits-for-dementia.html. To get more detail on the study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28432077.
At Weatherby & Associates, PC, we understand that types of dementia diagnoses differ with each individual. And as a result of different diagnoses, varying symptoms can arise. We utilize our social work and legal expertise to help clients and their families develop individualized planning to proactively address the next steps in their health care journey. To learn more about our process, call our office at 860-769-6938.