The right moves for beating dementia

Want to beat dementia? Start moving.

The couch potato lifestyle is responsible for 21 percent of all dementia cases, making it one of the leading preventable causes of the brain-robbing condition.

If that's not enough to get you off the sofa and outside, take a look at the latest research, which confirms exactly what I've seen all along: Seniors who get even moderate levels of basic physical activities have a much lower risk of cognitive problems, including dementia, than couch potatoes.

And that's even true of people who have some of the earliest warning signs of dementia within the brain itself.

For the new study, researchers recruited 638 seniors who had the type of damage in the brain linked to dementia, but no actual outward signs of the disease, and tracked them for three years.

Those who got even very modest levels of physical activities were 60 percent less likely to develop any form of cognitive impairment and 40 percent less likely to suffer from vascular dementia over those three years.

The only condition where physical activities didn't show a direct benefit was full-blown Alzheimer's -- but I've seen other studies that have shown otherwise. One study published earlier this year found that the most sedentary seniors have 2.3 times the risk of Alzheimer's disease of those who are most active.

In the new study, the levels of physical activities were also fairly moderate -- just 30 minutes of walking, biking, or gym classes three times a week. Maybe that's enough to keep some forms of dementia at bay, but not quite enough to protect against Alzheimer's.

I'd say shoot for more -- between two and three hours a week or more of light to moderate activity, and not just to save your brain.

A little movement can help protect the rest of your body, too, by slashing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and more. But let's stay focused on lowering that dementia risk today, because another new study shows what happens inside your brain when you get even a little bit of movement.

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