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With dementia statistics at all-time highs, it’s no surprise that Boomers and even Gen Xers are paying closer attention to their health. Specifically, what can they do to boost brain health and lower the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s?

A recent study provides us with insight into the latest research regarding dementia and its biggest risk factors: physical inactivity, depression, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, smoking, low educational attainment and diabetes.

Exercise Decreases Risk of Dementia by Half

According to the landmark study, just one hour of exercise a week can reduce the chance for developing Alzheimer’s by almost half. The research was done by Cambridge University and published in Lancet Neurology. In fact, the study identifies exercise as the best way to protect people from dementia.

In the study, those who did not achieve three 20-minute bursts of vigorous activity each week – or five 30-minute sessions of moderate activity each week – were 82 percent more likely to develop dementia. Obesity was found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent, while high blood pressure raised it by 61 percent.

Also, many of the risk factors associated with dementia overlap with each other. People who are obese are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to have diabetes. Additional factors that may raise the risk of dementia are depression, lower levels of education and smoking. However, there is no magic bullet that says whether or not a person will develop dementia in their lifetime.

What Was the Purpose of the Study?

The purpose of this study was to raise awareness about the importance of exercise and its impact on brain health. Why this is the case is not exactly known, though there are several theories. The main theory is that reduced blood flow to the heart, which can be caused by a poor diet or lack of exercise, can also restrict blood flow to the brain, thus allowing certain parts to die.

By being more physically active, Americans can decrease the rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, therefore lowering the rates of dementia. In fact, researchers estimate that by reducing each risk factor for Alzheimer’s by 10 percent, we could lower global prevalence rates of dementia by 8.5 percent by 2050.

Whether it’s brisk walking, water aerobics or yoga, there is plenty you can do to be physically active. If just 30 minutes a day could lower your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, chronic stress and dementia, wouldn’t you want to know?