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Could exercise be the magic pill to preventing cognitive decline?

June 28, 2019  · 2 min read

A recent Irish Examiner article outlines the importance of exercise to reduce risk of cognitive decline, with emphasis on the importance of aerobic exercise, specifically.

“The strongest evidence seems to be at the moment for aerobic exercise, which makes us think that it’s due to that good, healthy, blood-vessel supply to your brain” – Dr. Suzanne Timmons, consultant geriatrician and clinical lead for the national dementia office, Ireland

In a recent IFA webinar, Prof. Yaakov Stern, Professor of Neuropsychology defines ‘reserve’ as the disjunction between the degree of brain damage and the clinical outcome of that damage, however notes that there are differences between brain reserve (how big the brain is, how many synapses there are) and cognitive reserve which is the adaptability of functional brain processes.

In simple terms, cognitive reserve is about how your brain works, and individuals with greater cognitive reserve experience less cognitive decline and later onset of dementia, even when brain scans indicate tissue deterioration.

“We talk about brain reserve – how big and healthy your brain is – but cognitive reserve is about how your brain works. If you have a large, well, blood-supplied brain, then your reserve, if you develop dementia, is significant. Their brain can compensate better and so they won’t develop symptoms and won’t have difficulties with their activities of daily living until later.” – Dr. Timmons

Scholars further note in the article that it can be of even greater benefit to cognitive reserve if the aerobic exercise is mixed with “cognitive exercise” simultaneously. This can be as simple as watching your foot while going on a hike.

From 24-25 October 2019, the International Federation on Ageing is hosting the Copenhagen Summit on Cognitive reserve which will feature key speakers including IFA Experts Prof. Michael Valenzuela, Prof. Kaarin Anstey and Prof. Perminder Sachdev. Reach out to these experts to learn more about cognitive reserve and register for the Copenhagen Summit here.

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