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Keep your mind and body active to hold off dementia, study finds

A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec has shed light on the powerful potential of an active lifestyle in staving off the progression of dementia among older adults. The study, which focused on individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), has underscored the importance of engaging both the mind and body to maintain cognitive functions and delay the onset of dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment refers to a condition characterized by noticeable cognitive decline, yet individuals can still manage daily tasks independently. This condition significantly increases the risk of developing dementia, with a three-fold higher likelihood compared to the general population. Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso, a professor at Western University and the study's senior investigator, emphasized the critical role of enhancing cognition as a means to postpone the onset of dementia.

The study's findings, published in the open-access medical journal JAMA Network Open, highlight a multifaceted approach to bolstering cognitive function among MCI patients. The research involved 175 patients from diverse cities across Canada1. Combining aerobic exercise, weight training, and cognitive training utilizing a personalized memory app, the study demonstrated a significant improvement in cognitive functions among participants. Interestingly, the combined approach proved more effective than exercise alone.

The SYNERGIC trial, a collaboration among researchers from various universities, has revealed promising insights into dementia prevention and cognitive health enhancement. The study's focus on integrating cognitive and physical training aligns with the emerging understanding that holistic approaches offer the most effective means of addressing complex medical issues.

The study's implications extend beyond the research lab. Dr. Shoemaker, another researcher involved in the study, emphasized that behavioral patterns play a pivotal role in improving health outcomes. Participants who adhered to the comprehensive training regimen experienced better physical and cognitive health over a year, effectively delaying the decline associated with dementia. This benefits individual patients and reduces the burden on healthcare systems.

The next phase of the SYNERGIC trial is set to replicate its findings in a home setting, building on the lessons learned during the COVID-19 restrictions that disrupted everyday routines. This phase will include a continuation of cognitive and physical training and incorporate additional lifestyle changes, dietary considerations, and sleep counseling to comprehensively enhance cardiovascular health.

With Canada currently hosting approximately 597,000 dementia patients, the study's findings offer a glimmer of hope in the realm of dementia prevention and management. By prioritizing both mental and physical well-being, individuals can proactively take steps to delay the progression of cognitive decline and contribute to a higher quality of life in their later years.

As the world of medical research continues to explore new avenues of disease prevention and management, the SYNERGIC trial serves as a beacon of hope for individuals facing the challenges posed by dementia and highlights the importance of adopting proactive and holistic approaches to cognitive health.