Within the next 40 years, public health authorities expect an explosion of dementia cases as people live longer. Some potential strategies to prevent or delay dementia among asymptomatic individuals include a variety of behavioral interventions.
Lifelong exercise can significantly improve cognitive functioning in later life, a previous study in Psychological Medicine revealed.
However, according to the authors of this latest article, not many studies have observed the effects of physical and mental activity together.
The researchers said:
"We found that cognitive scores improved significantly over the course of 12 weeks, but there were no significant differences between the intervention and active control groups.
These results may suggest that in this study population, the amount of activity is more important than the type of activity, because all groups participated in both mental activity and exercise for [60 minutes/per day, three days/per week] for 12 weeks. Alternatively, the cognitive improvements observed may be due to practice effects."
A total of 126 inactive older adults with cognitive complaints were a part of the study. They all engaged in home-based mental activities a well as a class-based physical activity for 1 hour a day, three days per week, for a duration of 12 weeks.
The participants were either part of the mental activity intervention group or the mental activity control group plus either exercise intervention or exercise control.
The researchers found that the overall cognitive scores improved greatly but didn't differ between the different groups.
The authors concluded:
"The prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia are projected to rise dramatically during the next 40 years, and strategies for maintaining cognitive function with age are critically needed. Physical or mental activity alone result in small, domain-specific improvements in cognitive function in older adults; combined interventions may have more global effects."
Dementia is already present in a major way among American seniorsAccording to the Alzheimer's Association, one in every three American seniors dies with some kind of dementia. While deaths from other diseases, such as heart disease have declined over the last ten years, deaths from Alzheimer's have risen by 68%.
Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, said "Now we know that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia. Urgent, meaningful action is necessary, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure and no way to slow or stop its progression."
Written by Joseph Nordqvist