A recent study in the Journal of Neurology examined brain size and how it is impacted by lifestyle. (Metro-Creative)

FITNESS: Fitness a precursor to good health in old age

Health solutions are not always found on an RX form, writes Ron Cain

As we age, we experience concerns over our futures.

We have developed these fears from caring for others and watching them suffer and decline. I can’t begin to describe what it is like to watch my sister and mother dying from Alzheimer’s disease. Horrific is not an adequate descriptor.

These experiences have shaped my commitment to taking steps to reduce my risk of going through the same thing, but the fear of the future is never far from my mind.

Fortunately, the research on what works to reduce your risk is well established, and there is little debate about what steps we need to take. The challenge is overcoming people’s lack of conviction regarding science and committing to change their lifestyles.

Even if you are 80 years old, you can do plenty to help you slide into home plate on the run versus being pushed around in a wheelchair. Your life, your choices, but your family suffers when you make poor choices.

A recent study in the Journal of Neurology examined brain size and how it is impacted by lifestyle. People lose up to five per cent of their brain mass every decade over 40 and possibly much more after 70 years of age.

The question is whether this is normal aging or the result of lifestyle. An excellent study compared competitive long-distance runners over 70 that were competitive athletes in college and maintained their competitive running throughout their life. These aging athletes did not exhibit a loss of brain mass – their brains were comparable to young adults.

The new study published in Neurology measured brain mass related to Body Mass Index and glucose metabolism. People with a high BMI with a higher level of body fat often have a much lower level of activity and issues with metabolizing glucose.

A high BMI does not make a person overfat if they are very active and building muscle. Still, a high BMI indicates a significant risk for diseases such as diabetes, fatty liver syndrome, and cardiovascular disease in most cases.

What the study found was that the seniors who had the highest level of fitness had brain scans that revealed a larger brain and better glucose metabolism than seniors with sedentary brains.

A study at the University of B.C. a few years ago was groundbreaking. It suggested a direct association between dementia and inflammation and that inflammation is the precursor to dementia and not dementia causing inflammation in the brain. This dramatic finding strengthens the case for focusing on controlling inflammation in the body as we age and doing so through diet and exercise.

Are you worried about your marbles falling out of the bag? Please do something about it. Eat a diet that does not contribute to inflammation – low in processed foods, high in fibre, rich in vegetables and low in meats, high in good carbohydrates not from crap in a box but vegetables and whole grains.

And get off that couch and onto that recumbent bike, hit the Galloping Goose twice a day, join a gym, lift weights to build bones and muscles, and improve insulin regulation.

It’s your future, and you control it. The solutions are not always found on an RX form.


Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at sookepersonaltraining@gmail.com or find him on Facebook at Sooke Personal Training.


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