Does a physically active lifestyle preserve cognitive function as we age?
Researchers used MRI technology to determine the relationship between energy output and grey matter volume in the brain. ‘Gray matter volume’ is a key marker of brain health and larger gray matter volume is said to be means of a healthier brain; Shrinking volume is seen in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Dementia has a staggering toll on society. More than 35 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the World Health Organization, and the prevalence is expected to double by 2030. AD is the most common cause of dementia and currently has no cure.
The researchers found a strong association between energy utilization and ‘gray matter volume’ in areas of the brain crucial for cognitive function. Higher caloric expenditure related to larger gray matter volumes in the memory and learning centers of the brain.
Additional evidence supported a strong association between high energy output and greater gray matter volume in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Physical activity is a vital lifestyle component to maintain overall body muscle tone and brain volume, and should be combined with healthy lifestyle choices. Most all of the physical activities examined in this study are some variation of aerobic physical activity, which we know from other work can improve cerebral blood flow and strengthen neuronal connections.
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