Regular aerobic exercise in combination with a heart-healthy diet appears to reverse some effects of brain aging and might reduce the risk of dementia, according to a new study that reinforces the value of lifestyles changes for keeping both heart disease and dementia at bay.
In a randomized clinical trial of exercise and a healthy diet in 160 older adults (over age 55) with cognitive impairment but no dementia, the researchers found that regular aerobic exercise three times a week for 6 months was associated with significant improvements in their thinking skills compared to older adults who didn't exercise. A group that adhered to both exercise and a heart-healthy diet for six months had the most improved thinking skills. The subjects who followed the heart-healthy diet adhered to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a healthy eating plan developed by NHLBI.
The study, funded by NHLBI, was published in the journal Neurology.