It Ain’t Over Yet
By Michael McFarland

 My heart’s in the right place; what’s left of it, I guess
My heart ain’t the problem; it’s my mind that’s a total mess
It ain’t over yet; you can mark my word
It ain’t over yet. © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Those lyrics are from a song written and recorded by county singer Rodney Crowell. They carry a lot of weight today as more and more worldwide investigations are being carried out for the benefit of our senior population.

A new report from the World Health Organization says annual healthcare costs will rise from lack of physical activity. Under the current trajectory, the healthcare costs due to diseases linked to physical inactivity are estimated to reach US$300 billion by 2030; Canada’s share of these costs is expected to total US$421 million annually.

To hopefully offset this annual cost and to be a benefit to seniors, a new USA study marks the most extended test of whether exercise makes any difference once memory starts to slide — the research was carried out amid a pandemic that added isolation to the list of risks to participants’ brain health.

Researchers recruited 300 sedentary older adults with hard-to-spot memory changes called mild cognitive impairment or MCI — a condition that’s sometimes, but not always, a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Half were assigned aerobic exercises, and the rest stretching-and-balance moves that only modestly raised their heart rate.

After a year, cognitive testing showed neither group had worsened, said lead researcher Laura Baker, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Nor did brain scans show the shrinkage that accompanies worsening memory problems. By comparison, similar MCI patients in another long-term study of brain health – but without exercise — experienced a significant cognitive decline over a year.

The results suggest “this is doable for everybody” — not just seniors healthy enough to work up a hard sweat, said Baker, who presented the data at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.” Exercise needs to be part of the prevention strategies” for at-risk seniors. “

Next up: Baker is leading an even more extensive study of older adults to see if adding exercise to other can’t-hurt steps such as a heart-healthy diet, brain games, and social stimulation together may reduce the risk of dementia.

It ain’t over yet; I’ll say this about that
It ain’t over yet; here’s the truth, my friend
You can’t pack it in, and we both know why
It ain’t over yet. © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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