No one can guarantee how to prevent dementia.
And though I often chat with Medicare brokers near me, one of the most challenging things we face is working with clients who have dementia.
The good news is a recent article in the New York Times points to the positive connection between exercise and dementia.
People often think for exercise to be valuable that they must be involved in super vigorous exercise, but as Paul Harvey used to say, now it’s time for the rest of the story.
In a recent study, vigorous regular exercise was linked to the most overall protection, but many other forms of physical activity provided protection as well.
So, if you have been performing vigorous exercise for years, good for you! There are benefits and you should continue to keep on doing what you are doing.
Individuals in this category reduced the risk of dementia by as much as 35%! That’s amazing, isn’t it?
According to Obesity Prevention Source on the Harvard University Website, here are examples of vigorous physical activity: hiking, shoveling, basketball, rapid biking above 14 mph, playing tennis, carrying heavy loads, running at 6 mph or faster, and other intense activities. These activities generated >6.0 METS. METS stands for the Metabolic Equivalent of Task. In other words, you are working your butt off :).
It makes sense that vigorous exercise is good for the heart and the brain, increased blood flow and movement. Continuously moving seems to be one of the most important things we can do.
But as we age, it can be harder to keep up vigorous exercise. As I go on my daily walks, a large percentage of the people I see who are older than me have joint issues that can make these intense types of activity more challenging. Not impossible, but definitely more challenging. We have to continue and adapt our exercise regimens. This points to the importance of always doing the proper types of pre-workout preparation so that you don’t hurt yourself with vigorous exercise.
But here’s the really great news!
The article also pointed out that individuals who participated in “regular household chores” also had a 21 percent reduction in the risk of developing dementia. That’s huge!
Just remember that there is a mind body connection that must be activated in order to get the benefits of household chores.
According to the article, household chores can be considered moderate activity, producing 3.0-6.0 METs. This type of activity includes things like: washing windows, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, taking out the trash, mopping the floor, vacuuming, and a bunch of other household related activities (don’t get me started about cleaning the basement!)
The mindset we have about the household work we do can also affect the value of the work we do on our body. In one study, hotel cleaners were divided into two different groups.
One group of cleaners was given no insight into the value the cleaning chores they were performing could have on their physical health. The other group of cleaners were educated about the positive effects their cleaning chores would have on their health.
When the two groups were measured, the group who had been educated saw the following health benefits: a 10 percent drop in blood pressure, and a decrease in their weight and their “waist-to-hip ratio,” and a “decrease in their systolic blood pressure” readings.
Both groups did the same work, but the power of belief made a huge difference. Using the placebo effect may be another tool for how to prevent dementia, or at least how to reduce the risk.
My mom never worked out. But till the very last day of her life, she got up, made breakfast, walked up and down the stairs, fed her cat, worked in the garden, and went out to grocery shop and pick up the mail. She died in her sleep, in her bed, on her own terms.
Isn’t that what we all want? I never spoke about this with my mom, but I’m guessing she knew how to prevent dementia.
So as you go about your daily activities, slow and steady is the secret. Work out vigorously if you can, but if you can’t, give yourself credit for daily chores.
You’ll be glad you did.
Remember, continuous movement is important, but so is brain activity in the fight on how to prevent dementia.
That’s it for this week. And if you have questions about Medicare, book a time on my calendar here.
Karl Bruns-Kyler is a Certified Senior Advisor, a Medicare Insurance Broker with no affiliation to CMS, Medicare, or any other governmental organization.