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Preventing dementia

Besides the walking speed, people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) may have problems with short term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood. For a person with MCI, these changes may cause them to experience minor problems or need a little help with more demanding daily tasks. However, MCI does not cause major problems with everyday living. If there is a significant impact on everyday activities, this may suggest dementia.

Many people who are diagnosed with MCI use this as an opportunity to change their lifestyle for the better. There is a lot that someone can do to help reduce their chances of MCI progressing to dementia. One of the studies called ‘FINGER’ have shown that older adults who follow a healthy eating plan and undertake regular exercise and brain-training activities have enhanced memory performance, over those who don’t. These findings show that prevention is possible. The researchers acquired 1260 people from across Finland, aged 60-77 years old who were deemed to be at risk of dementia, based on previous test scores. The study presented that people who underwent lifestyle interventions showed improvements in their mental functions, including memory, executive function and speed tests of their cognitive skills after just two years.

The study by Illinois University has found that even moderate aerobic exercise, for example, moderate walking three times a week, improves the coordination of important brain networks in older adults. The higher the connectivity, the better the performance on some of these cognitive tasks, especially the ones we call executive control tasks – things like planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity, working memory and multitasking, which are the very skills that tend to decline with ageing. (Floro Mercene)