Fit Body, Fit Brain: Studies suggest muscle quality impacts brain health.

By Jeremy Stallbaumer, MD
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Solving Sudoku puzzles or doing other brain games isn’t the only way to help keep one’s mind in shape.

Data from several studies suggests that getting and staying fit and strong can help protect one’s brain from the effects of aging.

For example, a study by the Boston University School of Medicine found that people who weren’t in good physical shape in their 40s had significantly lower brain volumes by the time they reached age 60. MRI scans showed they had lost brain tissue, a sign of accelerated aging of the brain.

After a decade-long study of more than 300 female twins, researchers at King’s College London found that older women who had more leg strength sustained their cognitive abilities better and had fewer of the brain changes associated with aging. After taking into account the women’s ages, lifestyles and other risk factors, the researchers found that strong legs played a significant factor in helping the brain resist aging.

Another study that measured grip strength and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease found that declining strength in old age is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Jeremy Stallbaumer, MD

Besides declining strength, other health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can put patients at risk for Alzheimer’s. Staying fit reduces the incidence of many of those conditions. Articles in the NCBI database indicate that diabetes doubles a patient’s risk for Alzheimer’s, for example. The book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs and Sugar by neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, suggests a link between blood sugar and inflammation and cognitive decline.

With America’s aging population and the BrightFocus Foundation estimating 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease being diagnosed each year in America, recommending a healthy lifestyle and a muscle-strengthening fitness regime for patients makes sense.

Jeremy Stallbaumer, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon who owns The Exercise Coach in Wichita, a franchise that provides customized and optimized personal training workouts within 20 minutes. For more information, call 316-978-9213.