WASHINGTON D.C: Worried about staying mentally sharp as you grow older? A recent study proved that being physically fit helps to keep your brain sharper.
Researchers from Swinburne's Centre for Human Psychopharmacology found that the rate of decline of memory may be explained by a combination of overall physical fitness and stiffness of the central arteries.
Lead author Greg Kennedy said that from early adulthood, memory and other aspects of cognition slowly decline, with an increased risk of developing into dementia in later life.
"Exactly why this occurs is unclear, but research indicates that exercise and physical fitness are protective," Kennedy noted.
According to the author, a healthier and more elastic Aorta (biggest artery of the human body) reduces the negative effects of excessive blood pressure on the brain
The physical fitness and arterial stiffness test was carried out on 73 females and 29 males from Melbourne aged between 60 and 90 years who were living independently in old-age homes.
Their fitness was assessed with the Six-Minute Walk test which involved participants walking back and forth between two markers placed 10 metres apart for six minutes.
Only participants who completed the full six minutes were included in the analysis, which assessed the stiffness of their arteries and cognitive performance.
"People generally are less fit and have stiffer arteries as they age, which seems to explain the difference in memory ability that is usually attributed to 'getting older'," Kennedy added.
Interestingly, physical fitness did not seem to affect central arterial stiffness, however, Kennedy pointed out that only current fitness was assessed.
He conclusive results indicated that remaining fit, and monitoring central arterial health, might well be an important, cost-effective way to maintain memory and other brain functions in older age.
The study will be published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.