A new study suggests that a heart-healthy diet and aerobic exercise can slow the development of memory problems. Cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment without dementia (CIND) is a condition that can affect your memory and put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, researchers say.
For this study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers at Duke University examine two possible ways to slow the development of CIND based on what we know about heart disease prevention.
One of the research team’s theories was: that healthy lifestyle behaviors that can gradually reduce the risk of developing heart disease and slow cognitive decline in older adults with CIND.
These behaviors include regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
To investigate their theory, the researchers created a study entitled “Practices and Nutritional Interventions for Cooperative and Cardiovascular Health Enhancement” (or ENLIGHTEN for short).
The aim of the study was to examine the effects of aerobic exercise and the dash diet on cognitive functioning among adults with CIND. The study examined 160 adults 55 or older.
Participants in the study were older adults who did not practice and had difficulty with memory problems, thinking and making decisions. They had at least one additional risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other chronic conditions.
Participants underwent a number of tests to measure their cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive abilities.
The researchers also assessed participants’ dietary habits and ability to perform daily activities.
Participants were then randomly assigned to one of four groups: one group practicing aerobic exercise alone, one group following the DASH diet alone, one group practicing aerobic and combining the DASH diet, or one group receiving standard health education.
At the end of the six months of intervention and evaluation, participants can engage in any activity and dietary practice they choose, without restriction.
The results of the research team’s study demonstrated that practitioners improve participants’ thinking, remembering, and decision-making compared to practitioners, and the combination of exercise with the dash diet improves thinking, remembering, and decision-making, compared to those who did not or did not follow the diet.
The researchers concluded that their findings are promising evidence that improves thinking, remembering, and decision-making skills for one year after completing a six-month practice intervention. They suggested that more studies need to be done for further study.