Boosting Blood Flow May Help Protect Memory

Two smiling women doing water aerobics in a pool
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Aerobic exercise — the kind that makes you breathe harder and gets your heart pumping out more oxygen-carrying blood with every beat — may play an important role in improving your thinking and memory skills.

Two new studies suggest that aerobic exercise may help pump more blood to the regions of the brain that play important roles in memory and other thinking skills. In both studies, participants who did aerobic exercise several times a week for several months performed better on certain mental tests. Brain scans taken at the beginning and end of each study also showed blood flow to the brain had increased.

Did you know a vigorous workout can boost your spirits? Read more in Staying Sharp about exercise and emotional health.

What studies like these suggest is that increased blood flow from aerobic exercise is linked to reduced risk of memory loss, said Binu Thomas, a senior researcher in neuroimaging at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and co-author of one of the studies.

Even for those whose memory has started to fade, they can still do something about it by adding aerobic exercise to their lifestyle, he said.

In the University of Texas study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,  adults age 60-plus with mild memory problems showed a 47 percent improvement in some memory scores after a year of aerobic exercise compared with minimal change in a control group that did only stretching, researchers reported.

In a second study, Canadian researchers studied 206 healthy adults, average age 66, who engaged in aerobic exercise for six months. The improvement in their scores on one mental skills test “was what you’d expect to see in someone five years younger,” a researcher said.

To read more about the study, go to the full article, Boosting Blood Flow May Help Protect Memory.

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