Walking, Vitamin B12 Help Preserve Memory, Studies Reveal

by Lois Etienne on November 8, 2010

in Senior Health and Safety

Q.   I’ve been trying to convince my 70-year-old dad to get out and walk, but he doesn’t see any point to it. How can I persuade him?

Ask your dad whether he would be interested in something simple he could do a few times a week that would help keep his memory intact as he grows older. Chances are he will say yes.

New evidence suggests that senior citizens can preserve the size of their brain and their memory into old age by walking regularly at least six miles per week. This study from the University of Pittsburgh was supported by the National Institute on Aging. A separate study found that the vitamin B12 can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. So these two studies hold much promise for the preservation of memory in older adults.

During the brain memory study, 299 dementia-free people with an average age 78 recorded the number of blocks they walked per week. Then nine years later, scientists took brain scans of the participants to measure their brain size. After four more years, the participants were tested to see if they had developed cognitive impairment or dementia.

The study found that people who walked at least 72 blocks per week, or roughly six to nine miles, had greater gray matter volume than people who didn’t walk as much, when measured at the nine-year time point after their recorded activity.

Walking more than 72 blocks did not appear to increase gray matter volume any further. By four years later, 116 of the participants, or 40 percent, had developed cognitive impairment or dementia. The researchers found that those who walked the most cut their risk of developing memory problems in half.

Perhaps your father just needs a little motivation. Home Instead CAREGiversSM, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide seniors with the vital service of companionship, which helps support healthy habits. Many of these CAREGivers are seniors themselves. Efforts are made to match CAREGivers with seniors of similar interests, such as those who enjoy walking together or who are interested in maintaining their health.

For more information about In Home Care Services, or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling: Spokane: 509.835.5898, North King/Snohomish Counties: 425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties: 253.943.1603. You can also email us at loisetienne@homeinsteadnw.com

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