Daily walks do more than just clear your head

Brisk walking linked to better memory for seniors
(AP) – 50 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A section of the brain involved in memory grew in size in older people who regularly took brisk walks for a year, researchers reported Monday.

The new study reinforces previous findings that aerobic exercise seems to reduce brain atrophy in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and that walking leads to slight improvement on mental tests among older people with memory problems.

The new analysis, led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, appears in Tuesday’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study involved 120 sedentary people, ages 55 to 80. They were divided into two groups: Half began a program of walking for 40 minutes a day, three days a week to increase their heart rate; the others only did stretching and toning exercises.

The hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory, tends to shrink slightly with age and that’s what happened in the group that only did stretching. But among people who took part in the walking program, the hippocampus region of the brain grew in size by roughly 2 percent.

Researchers found that there was some memory improvement in both groups, but “in the aerobic exercise group, increased hippocampal volume was directly related to improvements in memory performance.”

“We think of the atrophy of the hippocampus in later life as almost inevitable,” Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the paper’s lead author, said in a statement.

Added Art Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and the senior author: “The results of our study are particularly interesting in that they suggest that even modest amounts of exercise by sedentary older adults can lead to substantial improvements in memory and brain health.”

Read more here.

Study: Patients Who Survive Sepsis Infections Are More Than Three Times as Likely to Develop Cognitive Problems

First large-scale study shows that most older patients hospitalized with severe sepsis face years of cognitive, physical decline, according to U-M research

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Older adults who survive severe sepsis are at higher risk for long-term cognitive impairment and physical limitations than those hospitalized for other reasons, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System.

Research to be published Oct. 27 today in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that 60 percent of hospitalizations for severe sepsis were associated with worsened cognitive and physical function among surviving older adults. The odds of acquiring moderate to severe cognitive impairment were 3.3 times higher following an episode of sepsis than for other hospitalizations.

Severe sepsis also was associated with greater risk for the development of new functional limitations following hospitalization, says lead author, Theodore (Jack) Iwashyna, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at U-M.

Among patients who had no limitations before sepsis, more than 40% developed trouble with walking. Nearly 1 in 5 developed new problems with shopping or preparing a meal. Patients often developed new problems with such basic things as bathing and toileting themselves.

“We used to think of sepsis as just a medical emergency, an infection that you get sick with and then recover,” said Iwashyna, “But we discovered a significant number of people face years of problems afterwards.

“Those problems are bigger and more common than we expected. Most older Americans suffer real brain and body problems. We need new treatments, not just for the sepsis infection, but to prevent these new disabilities afterwards.”

Sepsis is an overwhelming infection that can result in failure of multiple organ systems. The initial infections are often common problems, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection. About 40 percent of those with severe sepsis die from the infection.

Read the whole article here at PR Newswire.