New York: A heart-healthy diet and aerobic exercise may slow development of memory problems, a new study suggests. Cognitive impairment without dementia (CIND), or mild cognitive impairment, is a condition that affects your memory and may put you at risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia, the researchers said.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers from the Duke University examined two potential ways to slow the development of CIND based on what we know about preventing heart disease. The research team had a theory: That the healthy lifestyle behaviours that slow the development of heart disease could reduce heart disease risk and also slow cognitive decline in older adults with CIND.
These behaviours include regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet, such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
In order to investigate their theory, the researchers designed a study titled "Exercise and NutritionaL Interventions for coGnitive and Cardiovascular HealTh EnhaNcement" (or ENLIGHTEN for short). The goal of the study was to examine the effects of aerobic exercise and the DASH diet on cognitive functioning in older adults with CIND. The study examined 160 adults 55-years-old or older.
The study participants were older adults who didn't exercise and had memory problems, difficulty thinking, and making decisions. They also had at least one additional risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other chronic conditions.
Participants took a number of tests to measure their heart disease risk factors and cognitive ability.
Researchers also assessed participants' dietary habits and ability to perform daily activities. The participants were then randomly assigned to one of four groups: a group doing aerobic exercise alone, a group following the DASH diet alone, a group doing aerobic exercise and following the DASH diet combined, or a group receiving standard health education.
At the conclusion of the six-month intervention and assessment, participants were free to engage in whatever activity and dietary habits they desired, with no restrictions. The results of the research team's study showed that exercise improved the participants' ability to think, remember, and make decisions compared to non-exercisers, and that combining exercise with the DASH diet improved the ability to think, remember, and make decisions, compared to people who didn't exercise or follow the diet.
The researchers concluded that their findings are promising proof that improved ability to think, remember, and make decisions can last one year after completing a six-month exercise intervention. They suggested that further studies would be needed to learn more.