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More evidence suggests physical activity should be part of memory care

December 5, 2013

Exercise has long been a staple of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, and the benefits of regular physical activity might extend to preventing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. What has been less clear, however, is whether those advantages apply to seniors who have already begun to show symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline. Results of a new study suggest that might be the case.

The findings, published in The Cochrane Library, come from the University of Alberta and are based on a review of data concerning more than 325 older adults. Researchers found that older people with dementia who perform even simple activities, such as walking a short distance or sitting and standing from a chair, showed improvements to their cognitive function. Experts say the findings provide some clarity to previous studies, which have shown similar results.

"Following this new review, we are now able to conclude that there is promising evidence for exercise programs improving cognition and the ability to carry out daily activities," said researcher Dorothy Forbes. "However, we do still need to be cautious about how we interpret these findings."

This certainly isn't the first time researchers have come across a potential memory care breakthrough. A study released earlier this year found that iron-rich foods were particularly adept at helping older adults stave off cognitive decline, according to results published in the journal Neurology. 

The study, which came from the University of California, San Francisco, discovered a link between anemia and dementia risk. Specifically, they determined that adults who have anemia - or low levels of iron in their blood - have about a 41 percent higher chance of developing dementia.