Healthy Byte: Fight Dementia with Regular Physical Activity

ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE

Light Physical Activity Might Be Enough to Stave Off Dementia, New Research Says

Karla WalshDecember 27, 2021·4 min read

Did you know the most popular New Year’s resolution year after year is to exercise more? While that’s a valiant goal, more is not always better—especially if you set such a lofty goal that you can’t stick with it … and subsequently feel like a failure and quit trying.

But you might not need to focus on going from 0 to 100 to benefit your body and your brain. Lightly active adults reduced their risk for dementia by a sizable 20% after a 3½ year follow-up compared to their inactive peers, according to a study published December 16 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

This echoes the findings of a study released earlier this year that found walking just three times per week could reduce dementia risk and builds on 2019 research that suggested 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day could protect against cognitive decline. So, what exactly does light physical activity look like? According to this study, it’s as light as walking at a slow or leisurely pace.

There’s no cure (yet) for dementia and its most common type, Alzheimer’s disease. So doctors are hustling to determine which lifestyle habits may reduce the risk or at least delay the onset of dementia.

For this study, a team of Korean researchers tapped into medical records in the Korean National Health Insurance Service database for 62,286 participants who were 65 or older and who had not yet received a dementia diagnosis. The individuals were about 60% women and 40% men, with an average age of 73. Each person recorded his or her physical activity including frequency, intensity and duration of exercise via a self-reported questionnaire. After 3½ years, on average, the researchers followed up and found that 6% of the participants had developed dementia.

Using these reports, the researchers split the group into levels: inactive, insufficiently active, active and highly active. In terms of dementia risk, after accounting for age, sex and other diseases, they found:

  • Inactive participants were the baseline
  • Insufficiently active participants were at 10% lower risk for dementia
  • Active participants were at 20% lower risk for dementia
  • Highly active participants were at 28% lower risk for dementia

That means even a little bit can go a long way in terms of exercise’s bang for your brain buck. (Btw, those activity levels are based on one recommendation for ideal physical activity level: 500 to 999 metabolic equivalent task minutes (or MET minutes) per week. For more on what MET minutes are, check out our piece about whether it’s better to sleep in or exercise when you’re tired.)

Moving from sedentary to just some “light-intensity physical activity is associated with metabolism, and this vascular, cellular and metabolic change by light-intensity physical activity could be beneficial in reducing dementia risk,” Boyoung Joung, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and the study’s corresponding author tells Medical News Today.

That said, this study cannot prove any causal link. In other words, are people who are likely to develop dementia naturally less active because they’re already experiencing some mild symptoms? Or could other factors be at play and the exercise rates just be a coincidence—or misreported, since these were questionnaires that could be fibbed on?

“The idea that physical activity reduces the risk of dementia is entirely plausible, and these findings add to a growing body of evidence supporting this idea,” John Gallacher, Ph.D., director of Dementias Platform UK at Oxford University, tells Medical News Today. “The problem is reverse causation—that is, that people with dementia exercise less. This study goes some way to addressing this by looking at incident events and dropping subjects with incident dementia in the first 2 years of follow-up.”

Physical activity could trigger metabolism changes, improve overall chronic disease risk factors, slow cell aging and promote brain plasticity, though, so it’s possible this could be a causal relationship. More research is needed, though.

“All these arguments apart, the balance of risk is that exercise is good for you, and a little goes a long way,” Gallacher adds.

Health experts believe that more than 1 in 3 dementia cases can be prevented through lifestyle modifications and, in the future, researchers hope to dedicate time to longer-range studies with more breakouts in terms of exercise styles, time and beyond.

For now, it’s still wise to lace up those shoes and sneak in a walk, bike ride, dance session or yoga routine with a goal of working up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, per World Health Organization guidelines.

Healthy Byte: What You May Not Know About Menopause

Image result for menopause symptoms hot flashes

Originally Posted HERE

Menopause mostly deserves its bad rap, what with frustration-inducing symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog, weight gain, and mood swings. But take this to heart: The change doesn’t have to be this big, awful thing you fear or must suffer through.

Unfortunately, 65 percent of women say they feel unprepared for what menopause may bring, reports a study in the journal MaturitasBut unlike other hormonally tumultuous times like puberty and pregnancy, you’ve actually got a lot more control over how you weather this one, says Sarah De La Torre, M.D., an ob/gyn in Seattle.

The facts and the tips that follow will help you feel ready and empowered to deal with menopause — and make these years your best yet.

1. Symptoms could last for 7+ years.

You officially reach the big M after 12 months without a period, a milestone most women hit around age 51. “But it’s not a hard stop — it’s a gradual process,” explains Felice Gersh, M.D., an ob/gyn, director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in Irvine, CA, and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.

2. No, hot flashes aren’t random.

Up to 80 percent of pre-menopausal women and 65 percent of post-menopausal women experience this trademark symptom. And while you may not be able to entirely avoid hot flashes, there are ways to minimize their impact.

“Triggers such as stress, hot drinks, caffeine, and sleep deprivation can definitely kick off hot flashes and make them worse and more frequent,” Dr. De La Torre says.

Spicy foods, hot rooms, and tight clothing also turn up the heat. So avoid those things, and swap them for more sleep, healthy foods, and plenty of exercise.

3. You can still have sex — and enjoy it.

“A lot of women feel like sex won’t be as good after menopause or that it will be painful,” Dr. De La Torre says. Sure, waning hormones can leave the vagina naturally drier and less elastic, but you don’t have to live with it or let it kill your sex life any more than you have to live with a headache in the age of ibuprofen.

“Vaginal estrogen inserts, lubricants, and red light therapy can all help improve the health of your vagina and maintain your sex life,” Dr. De La Torre says. Surprisingly, while 50 percent of women experience vaginal dryness and painful sex, as many as 90 percent don’t seek help, reports Harvard Women’s Health Watch. So be like the 10 percent, and talk to your doctor.

4. You can still get pregnant.

“I’ve had quite a few 44-year-olds with surprise pregnancies,” Dr. De La Torre says. “I think some women get more casual about birth control in their 40s, thinking there’s no way they could get pregnant — but you’re still fertile, just less so.”

There’s another reason to keep taking hormonal birth control: It could help smooth your path through menopause. The steady dose of hormones in pills and IUDs means your body may not fully register the decline of natural estrogen and progesterone. In other words, symptoms might not be as erratic. “A lot of women have ridiculously heavy or erratic periods in perimenopause, and progesterone-releasing IUDs, especially, help avoid that,” Dr. De La Torre says.

5. Menopause doesn’t just affect your reproductive system.

Estrogen is the “master of metabolic homeostasis [a.k.a balance] and function,” Gersh says. So when production ceases, it impacts everything from fat production and distribution, appetite hormones and thyroid function to energy levels, sleep, mood, inflammation, and so much more.

That’s partly why up to 90 percent of women gain weight after menopause and why you may feel hungrier or more fatigued, Dr. Gersh says. Estrogen also helps manage cholesterol levels and keeps artery walls and blood vessels flexible and healthy, which is one reason the risk of heart disease jumps as the hormone declines. But you’re only in real trouble if you do nothing.

“Now is the time to start taking really good care of yourself,” Dr. De La Torre says. That means eating lots of fruits and veggies, exercising, practicing good sleep hygiene (no more scrolling social media in bed!), and reducing stress. All help prevent a dangerous pile-on of risk factors, keeping you healthy.

6. Your mental health might take a hit.

“Taking care of your mental health should be a huge priority,” Dr. Gersh says. “Women already have twice the risk of depression and anxiety as men, and that can escalate during the menopause transition.” Menopause symptoms also bring about extra stress (as if your kids flying the nest and aging parents who need care weren’t stressful enough).

You already know it feels good to vent or laugh your way through the tough parts of life, but research suggests positive social support can increase longevity in post-menopausal women, too.