Reversing Cognitive Decline

Reversing Cognitive Decline
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Exercise shown to reverse mild cognitive impairment.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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. They took folks with mild cognitive impairment, and had them exercise 30 minutes a day for six months, versus a control group that just stretched for half an hour every day, instead of exercised.

Here’s the data. They did a test of cognitive performance at the beginning, and then repeated it at the end of six 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 than 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 instead, getting some blood to their brain, maybe they’d only decline half as much—or ideally, not 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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. They took folks with mild cognitive impairment, and had them exercise 30 minutes a day for six months, versus a control group that just stretched for half an hour every day, instead of exercised.

Here’s the data. They did a test of cognitive performance at the beginning, and then repeated it at the end of six 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 than 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 instead, getting some blood to their brain, maybe they’d only decline half as much—or ideally, not 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on the benefits of exercise, check out these videos:
Exercise vs. Drugs for Depression
Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?
Preventing Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress With Watercress
Longer Life Within Walking Distance

And check out my other videos on cognition

For more context, also see 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.

12 responses to “Reversing Cognitive Decline

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    1. 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!




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      1. 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.




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    2. I have 130 LDL cholesterol, I’m 60. My mom has ALZH and has always had high cholesterol They say I inherited It . I eat a plant based diet . What can I do in my situation ? I’m already having some cognitive problems . I’m afraid to take statins . Please help .




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      1. Hi, Maggie priddy. I am Christine, a NF volunteer moderator. The human body makes cholesterol, which is used to make hormones and bile, and it is possible that some people are genetically predisposed to make more than they need. Some high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, can help to remove excess cholesterol from the body. As the video above states, if you are not already exercising regularly, you should probably start. You might also find this video interesting: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cholesterol-and-alzheimers-disease/
        I know you said that you eat a plant-based diet, but that can mean many things. I hope you are eating a whole-food, plant-based diet low in fat. Check out Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen for guidance on that that looks like. You also might find this video interesting: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/amla-versus-diabetes/ Although it is about diabetes, participants in one study found that 2-3g/d of amla powder helped to normalize cholesterol as well as blood sugar. I hope that helps!




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    1. Hi Shuk. I suggest looking at Dr. Forrester’s comment here, he mentions a great book by a colleague and co-author of mine, Dr. Amy Lanou. See if that helps? She has a lot of great tools in her book, “Building Bone Vitality”.

      Best to you,
      Joseph




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  1. .
    THANK YOU, DR. GREGER
    .
    For all ages and interests, Reversing Cognitive Decline remains one of the most powerful of all Dr. Greger’s research presentations.

    While we learn in all the other Nutrition Facts videos about reducing, or slowing down decline– and sometimes about preventing damage in the first place– actually reversing decline is major news for all those who care about maintaining, preserving and expanding their own healthy years.

    For all of us with aging relatives or friends, playing this video to them either weekly or even daily can be profound encouragement, boosting their morale to continue the work of becoming better, day by day.

    Here– as with everything else– ordinary people respond with extraordinary effort when given a real, research-based foundation for hope.




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