(NaturalNews) To hear many people in the mainstream media as well as mainstream medicine describe it, dementia is something similar to a curse: you will get it or you won't, so all you can do as you get older is just wait and see. Fortunately, evidence is mounting that shows this simply isn't so, and healthy and natural lifestyle choices can protect the brain and may prevent various forms of memory and identity robbing dementia.
For example, as NaturalNews previously reported, scientist William B. Grant, PhD, of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC), is researching a link between a lack of vitamin D and Alzheimer's disease and other vascular dementias (http://www.naturalnews.com/026392_Vitamin_D_Alzheimers_disease.html#i...). And now comes word from two new studies that restful sleep and exercise may also play a huge role in preventing cognitive decline.
In a study just published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and her research team investigated the association between the very common problem of sleep-disordered breathing and the development of mild cognitive impairment as well as dementia. Their study included 298 elderly women without dementia at the beginning of the study who had overnight sleep studies between January 2002 and April 2004. Those who had sleep-disordered breathing know as apnea (abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing) of 15 or more events per hour of sleep were far more likely to develop memory problems and/or dementia than women without this disorder.
"Given the high prevalence and significant morbidity associated with both sleep-disordered breathing and cognitive impairment in older populations, establishing whether a prospective association exists between sleep-disordered breathing and cognition is important. This is especially important because effective treatments for sleep-disordered breathing exist," the researchers said in a media statement. Treatments for apnea include losing weight -- obesity greatly increases the odds a person will have sleep-related breathing pauses -- and the use of oxygen during sleep.
Another natural way to protect the brain could be as simple as regular exercise. According to a study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, moderate exercise may lead to a variety of changes in the brain that boost its ability to protect itself during aging -- including protection from memory loss.
For their new research, scientists led by Ruth Barrientos, PhD, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, found running on an exercise wheel protected older rats from memory loss following an Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection. The exercise especially protected the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory that typically is impacted by bacterial infection in aging animals.
"This is the first study to show that exercise reduces susceptibility to the cognitive impairments that follow infection in aging animals, and the changes taking place in the brain thought to underlie these impairments," Barrientos said in a press statement.
Although this was an animal study, there's certainly reason to think the results could apply to humans. In people, older adults are more likely than the young to suffer memory problems, including dementia, after severe bacterial infection or injury. Jonathan Godbout, PhD, an expert on aging at Ohio State University, who was unaffiliated with the study, said in the media statement: "This study provides exciting evidence that a little moderate exercise is protective against age-related problems with health and immunity."
Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.
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