In January 2019 researchers from the USA published the results of their study to assess the effect of aerobic exercise and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cognitive functioning. A total of 160 adults, aged over 55 years, who followed a sedentary lifestyle, had cognitive impairments but no dementia, as well as risk factors for cardiovascular disease were involved in the study. The individuals were divided into four groups and undertook one of the following for a period of 6 months: aerobic exercise, DASH diet nutritional counseling, a combination of both aerobic exercise and DASH, or health education alone. Results showed that those individuals undertaking aerobic exercise experienced significant improvements in executive function (eg the ability to pay focused attention and to listen, to start, plan or complete tasks or even switch among tasks). However, these improvements in executive function were not seen in those who consumed the DASH diet. The largest improvements were seen in the group who undertook a combination of both aerobic exercise and the DASH diet. The researchers concluded that aerobic exercise and the reduced sodium intake from the DASH diet reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and were associated with improvements in executive function. However, it was noted that this improvement in executive function was not associated with a significant improvement in memory or language/verbal fluency.
Blumenthal JA et al. Lifestyle and neurocognition in older adults with cognitive impairments: A randomized trial. Neurology. 2019 Jan 15;92(3):e212-e223.