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Study Shows Sedentary Lifestyle Greatly Increases Dementia Risk

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When considering the causes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, which is more to blame – genetics or lifestyle? A new Canadian study from McMaster University seems to indicate that both can play a major role, and this study sounds a loud warning for seniors who have settled into a sedentary lifestyle. The message is simple: you need to get moving.

We found this very interesting article here, on the website Science Daily. The title should get the attention of any and all seniors (and their loved ones) who want to maintain their cognitive health as long as possible as they age. The headline warns, “Couch potatoes face the same chance of dementia as those with genetic risk factors.” In the article, we learn of a major research study that tracked 1,600 Canadian adults for a five year period. The study, whose findings were recently published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “shed new light on the relationship between genes, lifestyle risk factors, and dementia.”

Doctors conducting the study compared adults with a known genetic predisposition for dementia to adults with no genetic risks but whose lifestyle was sedentary, marked by a general lack of physical activity. The outcome was striking. Scientists found that, while certain genetic markers can increase dementia risk, if you’re living an inactive life it might not matter whether you have healthy genes or not.  “The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes,” says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor McMaster University and co-author of the study.

According to the Science Daily article, the number of adults living with some form of dementia is large and increasing – from almost 48 million worldwide today to more than 150 million in the next 25 years. Anyone who has cared for a loved one with dementia knows the terrible toll this affliction exacts on spouses, adult children and other family members. Prevention of dementia ranks near the top of the priority list, not only for seniors and their families but also for society at large. According to a RAND Corporation study conducted a few years ago, the estimated annual cost to society of dementia care in the U.S. ranges between $160 billion and $215 billion, making the disease more costly than either heart disease or cancer. Everyone has a stake in reducing the incidence and severity of dementia.

“With no known cure,” says the article, “there is an urgent need to explore, identify and change lifestyle factors that can reduce dementia risk, say researchers.” But part of the problem is that investigators have not yet determined what types of exercise and other activity might be most effective in keeping the brain healthy. As Barbara Fenesi of McMaster University, lead author of the dementia study, explained, “A physically active lifestyle helps the brain operate more effectively. However, if a physician were to ask us today what type of exercise to prescribe for a patient to reduce the risk of dementia, the honest answer is ‘we really don’t know’.”

But perhaps the specifics aren’t the important thing. If you’re interested in keeping your own mind working as well as possible for as long as possible, or if it’s your spouse or aging loved one you’re concerned about, you have nothing to lose and potentially a great deal to gain by staying physically active. You may need to check with a physician – hopefully a geriatrician – before you embark on any exercise regimen, but the important thing is to get moving. Research seems to demonstrate that a combination of physical activity and social engagement is a good prescription for a healthier mind and a healthier body. So the moral of this story is: get up and get going. Don’t be a couch potato!

There’s another kind of inactivity we see all too often, and that’s the lack of action on the part of too many seniors when it comes to retirement planning. Complacency is almost always a recipe for retirement catastrophe, yet many people enter their retirement years having done no planning whatsoever, almost guaranteeing that their retirement years will be filled with stress and disappointment. Do you want to protect your assets in retirement? Do you want to avoid unplanned institutional care? Are you determined never to be a burden to your loved ones? If the answer is “yes,” then a good, solid, comprehensive retirement plan is the solution.

We have the answer – an approach to retirement planning we call LifePlanning. With your LifePlan in place, you can enter retirement with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm, knowing that all aspects of retirement – finances, legal affairs, medical needs, housing choices, and family relationships – have been included in your plan. A LifePlan is the blueprint you’ll need to build the retirement of your dreams. If you’re interested in finding out more, let us invite you to join us for a free LifePlanning Seminar, an information-packed session offered without obligation in locations throughout the region. For dates, times, locations and online registration, simply click here – or contact us for assistance during the week.

We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon!

(originally reported at

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