How to Curtail Memory Loss

Do you live a sedentary lifestyle?  Chances are, if you work in an office or are over the age of 65, the answer is a resounding “yes”.  The invention of the chair was to “take the load off”, so to speak. In the Civil War and Victorian era, for example, people sat down to warm up next to fire, or rest their legs and backs after a long day of farming.  But the introduction of cars and the modern office with typewriters and desks, along with television, led to more sitting and less physical activity. Little did we know if would affect our memory.

People chatting at a water cooler

So, the old fashioned water cooler with its breaks, was really a good thing!

In recent years, researchers have conducted several studies that support the hypothesis that leading a sedentary lifestyle results in cognitive decline.  We know that those who carry one copy of the APOE e4 gene are 3 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who carry two copies of the gene are 8-12 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.  Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada, conducted a study of 1,646 older adults who were part of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging.  Her research team came to their findings by analyzing the physical activity and dementia development of these 1,646 individuals.  The results of the study suggests that the risk of dementia may be just as high for older adults exhibiting sedentary behavior as it is for the APOE e4 carriers.

What Happens When We Sit Too Long

Obviously, sitting too long leads to muscle atrophy, back problems, obesity and a list of other physical ailments.  But it also leads to restricted and slowed blood to our brains.  Brain cells need the oxygen and nutrients that blood contains.  The lack of blood flow to the brain results in a thinning of the medial temporal lobe – integral to the formation of new memories.  This thinning can be the forerunner of cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults.


What We Can Do To Curtail Dementia


It’s easy!  The researchers recommend that once you settle in behind your desk or in front of your television, set your timer for 30 minutes.  Then take a two minute walking break.  Two minute walking breaks every 30 minutes had an overall effect of preventing a decline in brain blood flow.  Breaks can be short, but must be recurrent.  Stroll down the hall. Take the stairs to visit a restroom a floor above or below your own. Complete a few easy laps around your office. So the old fashioned water cooler, with its breaks, was a really good thing!


For further information, see the links below.

AARP Article

Local News

New York Times article


For more articles by Virginia Tortorici, click here.

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