Being physically and cognitively active and social engaged are suggested by this article as things you can do that might delay or even prevent dementia. Wouldn't it be nice to think so.The authors, writing in the Archives of Neurology, discuss other factors including diet and treatment of the usual suspect risk factors for vascular disease related dementia, such as treating cholesterol, BP etc.
I have blogged before about some of the observational studies that link higher levels of physical activity and protection from dementia.In that regard one has to mention "reverse causation". Do the seniors who have early dementia withdraw from various activities such as regular exercise? The Archive article does reference one interventional article which suggest benefits of exercise in folks who already have some cognitive decline.
Social engagement also seems to correlate with lower risk of dementia. But is a low level of social engagement merely an early sign of dementia rather than a modifiable risk factor?
In discussing exercise and brain function one has to at least mention the putative roles of two substances,ILGF and BDNF.
There some animal data suggesting that insulin-like growth factor I (ILGF) may have some neuroprotective effect and that exercise can increase ILGF levels.Also there is human data published from Japan linking lowered levels of ISGF to dementia and more carotid artery thickening.
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) as the name suggest is recognized as a substance capable, under certain conditions,of stimulating nerve cell growth and repair and exercise has been shown to increase levels of BNDF. Other animal data indicated that in rats the increased learning noted in exercising rats could be blocked by a substance (an immunoadhesin molecule) that inhibited BDNF uptake by the hippocampus.
In the early days of the jogging-aerobic craze ( that never went away- at least so far), runners would knowing say that they felt so good from running because of release of endorphins. Now runners can feel even more self satisfied by thinking about all those wonderful neurotrophic factors surging in their veins and brains and get all tingly as they envision benefits in terms of synaptic plasticity.