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You Can Reverse Loss of Brain Volume

In a recent study older adults who took three brisk walks a week increased the size of their hippocampus.

The hippocampus is a portion of the brain that is involved with memory formation.

According to researchers, these findings indicate that loss of brain volume associated with old age can be delayed, and may even be reversible. It is a shrinkage of the brain that scientists believe causes a loss of memory in the elderly.

“We can change the brain in older adults,” said lead study author Kirk Erickson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s amazing that a one-year period of moderate exercise isn’t just slowing down the atrophy, it’s actually reversing it.”

When subjects in the study were given an MRI brain scan after a year on the exercise program they had an average of a 2% increase in their hippocampus.  They say this equates to about two years’ worth of age related brain shinkage. 

In comparison, the group that didn’t do the cardiovascular exercise had a decrease of hippocampus of about 1.4 percent during the same year.  And, the subjects that had the best improvements in their hippocampus also had the greatest improvements in memory when tested by researchers.

Finally, the researchers found that those whose hippocampus grew the most showed higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a growth factor in the blood that’s associated with brain health.

With it being widely accepted that normally a person would lose about 1-2% of their hippocampus size a year as they age, this new study gives you a new good reason to consider making sure you’re getting cardiovascular exercise at least three times a week.

Have a healthy day,

Larry Berman

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