The things to remember about dementia are that it is absolutely horrible for you and everyone around you; it is a strong probability; and when it comes to fighting or avoiding it, you’re pretty much on your own.
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Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias currently kill 6.5 million people in the United States and devastate many times the lives of patients’ friends and family. The National Institutes of Health estimates that number is expected to double over the next four decades.
The latest study found that people in their 70s had a nearly one-in-three chance of contracting this horrific brain disease before they died, and it was a study of people born in the 1920s. People born later , who are likely to live longer, are at even higher risk.
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Meanwhile, the amount the federal government spends each year on research to fight this disease is less than 0.1% of the amount it spent two years fighting Covid. Or, to put it another way, at the current rate, it will take Uncle Sam over 1,000 years to devote as much to researching Alzheimer’s disease as he has devoted to fighting COVID-19. Meanwhile, a new scandal has raised questions about the amount of dementia research over the past 15 years based on flawed data.
So I’ll take the good news where I can get it, and some very encouraging new data has just been published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology.
In a nutshell: Walking a lot more could go a long way in reducing our risk of developing dementia. It might actually reduce our risk half.
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And, remarkably, the ideal goal is around 9,800 steps per day: In other words, just shy of the magic number of 10,000 steps per day – a number that was apparently pulled out of the blue by the marketing department of a Japanese watch company several decades ago.
Weird, but true.
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The latest findings were based on a study of nearly 80,000 people in the UK over several years. They involved comparing actual data from step counters, such as Fitbits, worn by the subjects with follow-ups 7 years later.
“In this cohort study, a higher number of stages was associated
with a lower risk of dementia from all causes,” the authors report. “The results suggest that a dose of just under 10,000 steps per day may be optimally associated with a lower risk of dementia. Steps performed at higher intensity resulted in stronger associations.
Those who walked 3,800 steps a day had a 25% lower risk of developing dementia in the study. Those who walked 9,800 had a 50% lower risk. Those who walked at least 6,000 steps and walked reasonably briskly for about half an hour a day had a 62% lower risk of developing dementia.
Of course, in the real world, there are all kinds of caveats. How far do we look at correlation or causation? Will other studies find similar things? If the follow-ups had only taken place 7 years later, what would the longer-term figures show?
We’ll have to stay tuned for more research, as usual. In the meantime, I’ll take what I can get. I bought a $25 step counter for my wrist from Amazon a few years ago. This is quickly becoming my best investment in health.
There are three main takeaways from the research.
The first is that the benefits of walking really seem to kick in if you average at least 3,800 steps per day.
The second is that the optimal average is around 9,800.
And the third is that just casually walking around doesn’t give you all the benefits. For maximum benefit, we should try to walk “deliberately”, at a rate of “112 steps per minute”, for at least half an hour a day.
Human beings, of course, have spent most of the last million years walking a lot every day, eating unprocessed foods, and fasting a lot when there was no food around. It’s probably no coincidence that despite all the billions of dollars spent on advanced medical techniques, we’re slowly rediscovering that our bodies really want to walk a lot, eat unprocessed foods, and fast a lot.
#People #Day #Risk #Dementia #Rest