Brain Health - #1

The World Health Organization has identified many modifiable risk factors that

can reduce the incidence, severity, and trajectory of cognitive decline, and they include exercise and physical activity, stress management, sleep hygiene, and healthy dietary behaviors. At the top of the list, based on evidence weight and significance of risk reduction, is exercise and physical activity.

Some studies report that physically active lifestyles can reduce dementia risk by 30-45%, and others have reported 70% less brain shrinkage occurs over 3 years in those that exercise.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to behavior, environment, or learned experience. Negative (or mal-adaptive) neuroplasticity can be induced by sedentary behavior. Some studies demonstrate that anywhere from a single session to several weeks of exercise can have positive effects on the brain. However, ... there are heightened benefits when we maintain consistent, yet variable, types of exercise, and physical activity throughout our lifespan.

Stimulating activities and novel experiences contribute to Positive Neuroplasticity and the pinnacle of healthy brains, and these characteristics can be present in other mitigating factors. A basic walking program or an exercise that does not change from day to day or year to year (a mindless activity) is not be varied or stimulating enough and contributes to Negative Neuroplasticity and neurodegeneration.

Cognition is considered a part of Behavioral Outcomes, because it is the most likely noticeable response from exercise programs without the utilization of neuroimaging.

Body fat percentage (especially visceral body fat), waist and hip circumference, fat mass vs. lean mass, weight, and other factors can affect brain health and cognition.

Proper medication management is critically important in cognitive health.

Cognition is like blood pressure, which can change at multiple time-points. Things that affect blood pressure can also affect cognition including:

1. Exercise

2. Sleep

3. Stress

4. Nutrition

5. Environment

Cognitive training, which refers to cognitive stimuli that is targeted to specific domains of cognitive abilities, also may contribute to cognitive reserve, especially when combined with physical activity. the combination of exercise or physical activities that possess elements of social contact, novelty, stimulation, cognitive demand, and positive mood states are hypothesized to have significantly greater effects on cognition than any of these components alone.

There are normal age-related changes associated with blood pressure & cognition, certain changes in cognition naturally occur with age, but optimizing this process is possible through lifestyle modification. With age, individuals should put more effort towards exercise and new experiences, while not exceeding stress thresholds. This will make it easier to engage in neuroplastic changes later in life. Ryan Glad MSc Applied Neuroscience, Brain Health coach.

For clients with a diagnosable cognitive condition, such as mild cognitive impairment or dementia should not be given the same exercise program as those without cognitive impairments, and it is critical that the health/fitness professional engage in collaboration with the relevant medical professionals to determine the most appropriate exercise program to add value to client's life. The role of the health fitness professional is to reduce as many factors contributing to negative neuroplasticity while increasing the presence or number of factors contributing to positive neuroplasticity.


Worried Well: When you have perceived or known risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline you are the "Worried Well" you have the greatest chance of lowering their future risk of neurodegenerative disease or accelerated cognitive decline. Brain health research shows that middle-aged or above, has the greatest chance of lowering their future risk of neurodegenerative disease or accelerated cognitive decline. You can do this by incorporating multimodal exercise programs immediately and aggressively at this stage of your life.

Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD)

At this stage you experience the first tangible issue that signals abnormal aging or worry regarding cognitive decline, but occurs before mild cognitive impairment and the development of dementia. SCD is not always detected on cognitive assessments as it may relate to the course of normal aging,involves the awareness of an individual’s mild cognitive changes, while others around them may not notice.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

This refers to a transitional stage of detectable cognitive impairment towards dementia. You may begin with introducing compensatory memory strategies with calendars, notes, and to-do-lists. If you have MCI and have not begun to modify your lifestyle, especially in avoiding unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, cognitive decline may accelerate.

Please look for Brain Health issue #2 which is in process

References: Brain Health Trainer

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