An article by Fredrick Kunkle of the Washington Post (July 21, Section A), “Too much TV could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, study suggests,” provides ideas for both increasing or decreasing your risk for Alzheimer’s. It summarizes the results of research done at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education. The study tracked people enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development Study for 25 years beginning in young adulthood. Their exercise and TV viewing habits were evaluated using questionnaires three times during the course of 25 years. Low physical activity was defined as burning fewer than 300 calories in a 50-minute session three times a week, which by at least one measure is about 300 calories less than the equivalent of playing a round of golf while riding in a golf cart (See the healthymemory blog post, “Too Improve Your Memory, Build Your Hippocampus”). A high amount of television watching was defined as more than four hours a day. About 17 percent reported low physical activity, and about 11 percent qualified as heavy TV viewers. 3 percent reported both.
An analysis of the results showed that people who watch a lot television had a 1.5 percent higher risk of performing worse on cognitive tests compared with those who watched less television. Compared with participants with high physical activity and low television viewing, a relatively sedentary individual who exercises little and spends a lot of time in front of the television will be two times more likely to perform more poorly on cognitive tests in midlife.
You should note that the effects of television viewing are much lower than the effects of exercise. It might be that not all television programs are bad. True, it is likely that many are, but there are some programs that are cognitively challenging and educational, that is they likely benefit brain and memory health.
These results suggest that sedentary habits set early in life can perhaps have an impact on one’s dementia risk in midlife and later. One of the researchers, Yaffe, said, “What’s is happening at one’s midlife is setting the stage for what’s happening over the next 20 or 30 years.” Yet less than half the nation meets recommended exercise standards. More that 28 million baby boomers are projected to develop Alzheimer’s by 2050.
So how does one increase risk for Alzheimer’s? Do little or no exercise and much indiscriminate TV viewing.
How does one decrease risk for Alzheimer’s? Exercise at least a moderate amount and be judicious in your television viewing.
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