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Reversing Cognitive Decline

Exercise shown to reverse mild cognitive impairment.

October 21, 2010 |
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If you or anyone you know is currently starting to suffer from cognitive decline—starting to forget things, starting to repeat things—there is some exciting new research published this year. This year, they took folks with mild cognitive impairment and had them exercise 30 minutes a day for 6 months, versus a control group that just, stretched for half an hour every day instead of exercised.
Here’s the data… They did this test of cognitive performance at the beginning and then repeated it at the end of the 6 months. As you can see in that six month period those not exercising—just stretching—continued to decline. At the end of six months, both men and women got fewer correct answers then they did when they started. Now what they were hoping for is that by adding exercise they could slow down this decline. So if instead of just stretching every day, if they were doing aerobic exercise, getting some blood to their brain, maybe they’d only decline half as much, or ideally, not decline at all—stay the same, have zero fewer correct answers. But this is what they found instead. The cognitive decline reversed—they actually did better at the end of six months than when they started. Drugs can’t do that; exercise can.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on cognition. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Alzheimer's Disease: Up to half of cases potentially preventableNatural Alzheimer’s Treatment, and  Treadmill Desks: Stand Up For Health

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on cognition. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

    • Guest

      Hi Dr. Greger, Do you know of any research that compares rates of cognitive decline among people treated for hypertension vs people not treated? My concern is that when a person takes medication to lower their BP, their diastolic may go too low and decrease the blood flow returning to their heart and brain. Could this decrease in perfusion contribute to or even cause white matter disease and cognitive decline? I’ve seen the research that shows lowering BP decreases the number of strokes, but what if it increased rates of cognitive decline? My mother was a lifelong vegetarian who walked 4 miles a day and was treated for hypertension from age 46 until she died. She was diagnosed with white matter disease and mild cognitive impairment at age 67 which slowly progressed until she died at age 81. My sister and I are both whole, plant-based vegans. My average BP is 130-140 over 80-90. My sister’s is higher. When we are stressed (even happy stress) our BP can go over 160/100. We are both thin (BMI’s of 18.5 and 19.5). So far, both of us have refused to take blood pressure medication. We wonder if it did more harm than good for our mother. She had many episodes where her BP went too low which caused fainting and falling (breaking her pelvis once). Her BP medication and dosages were adjusted several times during the 35 years that she was treated for hypertension. She never had a stroke, but she needed fulltime care the last 4 years of her life due to decreased mobility and decreased cognitive ability. We wonder if decades of blood pressure medication causes side effects to the brain that pharmaceutically-funded studies are failing to look at. Your input on this question will be appreciated!

      • Lawrence

        Vegans with high BP! Me to! I am 61 with a BMI 22. I do not exercise enough but after seeing this video I will try to do more. Great question!. BP medication interferes with Potassium absorption. Lack of Potassium causes cell degradation that is why i refuse to take BP medication.

  • Toothferry

    Good job Dr.

    Keep getting the word out because dying of dementia related things is no fun for anyone; patients and/or care givers.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Alzheimer’s Disease: Up to half of cases potentially preventable!

  • barbarabrussels