Exercise is as effective as medication for improving the cognitive skills of the elderly who have memory and thinking problems, according to a new study published online in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Participants in the study who took part in thrice weekly hour-long exercise classes for six months showed a small improvement of 1.7 points on a test of overall thinking skills compared to those who did not exercise.
“This result, while modest, was similar to that seen in previous studies testing the use of drugs for people with vascular cognitive impairment,” says study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “However, the difference was less than what is considered to be the minimal clinically important difference of three points.”
The study involved 70 people with an average age of 74 years who had mild vascular cognitive impairment, the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. With the condition, problems with memory and thinking skills result from damage to large and small blood vessels in the brain.
Half the participants formed the exercise group and the other half a control group who received information each month about vascular cognitive impairment and a healthy diet, but no information on physical activity. All were tested before the study started, at the end of the study and again six months later on their overall thinking skills, executive function skills such as planning and organising and how well they could complete their daily activities.
There was no difference between the two groups at any point on the tests of executive function skills or daily activities. Six months after the participants stopped the exercise programme, their scores were no different than the controls.
New evidence that hormone levels measured in hair can affect IVF success by almost one-third
Elevated levels of the so-called “stress hormone” cortisol, when measured in hair, can predict almost a third less chance of conceiving in women undergoing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, a study by The University of Nottingham in the UK shows.
Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, the researchers say this technique enables doctors to measure cumulative hormonal function over the previous three to six months and, as such, provides a more reliable measure of hormonal function compared to other techniques using saliva, blood and urine that measure only short-term levels of the hormone. Long-term levels of cortisol are affected by many lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, caffeine and most notably stress.
A total of 135 women were recruited from a fertility clinic in Nottingham between December 2012 and April 2014, 60 per cent of whom became pregnant following IVF treatment. Salivary cortisol samples were collected over two days, on waking, 30 minutes after waking and at 10pm at night. Eighty-eight of the women also provided hair samples for the measurement of cortisol.
After analysing both types of cortisol data researchers found that short-term salivary cortisol measurements were not related to pregnancy but in contrast the hair cortisol concentrations were – after controlling for other known factors linked to IVF success such as age, body mass index and number of eggs retrieved and fertilised.
How your BMI might affect your brain function
A healthy body is a healthy mind: University of Arizona researchers have found that having a higher body mass index (BMI) can negatively impact cognitive functioning in older adults.
“The higher your BMI, the more your inflammation goes up,” explains Kyle Bourassa, lead author of the study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity. “Prior research has found that inflammation – particularly in the brain – can negatively impact brain function and cognition.”
Bourassa and colleagues analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which includes more than 12 years’ worth of information on the health, well-being and social and economic circumstances of the English population age 50 and older. Using two separate samples from the study – one of about 9,000 people and one of about 12,500 – the researchers looked at ageing adults over a six-year period.
It was found that the higher participants’ BMI at the start of the study, the greater the change in their levels of C-reactive protein, a marker in the blood of systemic inflammation in the body, over the next four years. This then predicted change in cognition six years after the start of the study.