Maintaining good cognitive function is essential as we age, and elevated blood pressure has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Fortunately, a recent study has shed light on how engaging in intense physical exercise regularly can help preserve cognitive abilities. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, focused on a group of 9,361 US adults over the age of 50 who had hypertension and a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Physician and clinical professor Richard Kazibwe from Wake Forest University highlighted the numerous benefits of physical exercise, including lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, and potentially delaying cognitive decline. The study found that participating in at least one session of vigorous physical activity (VPA) per week significantly reduced the risk of cognitive decline. Those who engaged in VPA had a lower incidence of mild cognitive impairment and probable dementia compared to those who did not meet this criterion.

To qualify as vigorous, physical activity should elevate both heart rate and breathing significantly. Activities like jogging are considered vigorous, while leisurely walking may not meet the criteria. While nearly 60% of study participants met the VPA criteria, the protective benefits of exercise seemed to diminish after the age of 75. Despite this, Kazibwe emphasized the importance of older adults recognizing the value of exercise and engaging in more intense physical activity.

The study relied on self-reported exercise habits without independent verification, raising questions about the accuracy of the data. While the results suggested a correlation between intense physical activity and cognitive function preservation, more research is needed to establish a direct link. Previous studies have consistently shown a connection between physical exercise and a reduced risk of dementia, supporting the notion that maintaining physical health can positively impact brain function.

The researchers involved in this study are calling for more comprehensive research that includes detailed exercise monitoring and a broader range of participants. They emphasize the need for studies that go beyond high-risk individuals with hypertension to explore how intense physical activity can benefit a wider population. Kazibwe stressed the importance of incorporating device-based physical activity measurements to provide more accurate data on exercise levels and cognitive outcomes.

While the study provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of intense physical exercise on cognitive function, more research is required to confirm these findings. As the link between physical activity, blood pressure management, and cognitive health becomes clearer, it is crucial for individuals of all ages to prioritize regular exercise. By staying active and engaging in vigorous physical activity, we may be able to protect our cognitive abilities and promote overall well-being as we age.

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