Regular exercise and healthy diet may reverse cognitive decline: study

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NEW YORK, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Just six months of regular exercise and a healthy diet may reverse cognitive decline in older people, a recent study suggested.

"Our operating model was that by improving cardiovascular risk, you're also improving neurocognitive functioning," said James Blumenthal, lead author of the study from Duke University. "You're improving brain health at the same time as improving heart health."

The study, which was published in the journal Neurology on Wednesday, enrolled 160 adults who had high risks for cardiovascular disease, never exercised and had cognitive concerns. Participants had cognitive tests before and after the study.

These participants, with an average age of 65, were divided randomly into four groups. One group had a heart-healthy diet with less salt and fewer fatty foods while not encouraged to exercise. The second group was not encouraged to diet, but they walked or cycled for about 30 minutes three times a week. The third group did both while the fourth group was told not to change their diet and exercise habits.

After the six-month study, the third group saw the most significant improvement in thinking skills. The six months of exercising and diet had brought their mental age down from 93 to 84.

The third group got 47 points on the cognitive test on average, while the second group got 42 points and the fourth group got 38 points.

"Adopting a healthy lifestyle can improve your risk, improve neurocognitive functioning, and it's not too late to start. Even in older people with some indication that their brains are compromised, they also benefit," Blumenthal said. Enditem

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