A recent international study, featured in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and involving a collaboration with the team from the Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center within the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, has uncovered a correlation between regular exercise and enhanced brain health. The research demonstrates that maintaining physical activity levels is associated with increased brain volume in regions crucial for learning and memory.
Examining MRI brain scans from 10,125 individuals, the study revealed that those who frequently participated in activities such as sports, walking, or running exhibited larger brain volumes in key areas. These areas encompass gray matter, which aids in information processing, white matter, facilitating interconnection between brain regions, and the hippocampus, vital for memory function, among others.
The findings underscore a straightforward approach to promoting brain health: remaining physically active. Fancy equipment or a gym membership are not necessary; simply getting up and moving suffices. Whether it's a daily walk, dancing, playing sports, or biking, regular physical activity can yield enduring positive effects on brain health, making the endeavor highly worthwhile.
A recent meta-analytic review titled "Social Relationship sand Mortality Risk," published in PLOS Medicine, draws from data from 148 studies and suggests that investing time in nurturing positive social connections can contribute to a longer lifespan. The study finds that cultivating robust social relationships is linked with an extension of up to 7 years in life expectancy.
While humans naturally seek social interaction, modern lifestyles in industrialized nations have diminished both the quantity and quality of these relationships. Many individuals no longer reside among extended families or in close proximity to one another, and factors such as delayed marriage, postponement of childbearing, and a rise in solo living contribute to an increase in loneliness.
Research such as this not only assesses the mental well-being of individuals but also examines its impact on physical health. Strong correlations exist between maintaining satisfying social relationships and various health conditions, including high blood pressure and morbidity. Part of this impact on physical well-being can be attributed to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which escalates during periods of anxiety or depression. Cortisol suppresses functions deemed non-essential in stressful situations, including the immune system, digestion, and reproductive system. Moreover, elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased glucose in the bloodstream and contribute to headaches, muscle tension and pain, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and impairments in memory and concentration. Additionally, cortisol has been linked to serious health issues such as stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
According to the researchers, across all 148 studies encompassing 308,849 participants, the weighted average effect size of social relationships on survival was OR=1.50 (95% CI 1.42 to 1.59), indicating a 50% increased likelihood of survival for those with stronger social connections. Furthermore, these findings remained consistent across factors such as sex, age, initial health status, cause of death, and follow-up period.
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