Aging education improved brain health for some, Pennington Biomedical study says

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Pennington Biomedical Research Center(LSU)
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 1:59 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Education about healthy aging along with social activity can play a critical role in improving the brain health of older African Americans, according to a new study from LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Dr. Robert Newton Jr. and Dr. Owen Carmichael received a grant to conduct the study and learn more about protecting the brain health of African Americans ages 65 and older. Experts said the group is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

Fifty-six healthy African American men and women, ages 65 to 85, took part in a 12-week trial as part of the study.

According to officials, half of the group was assigned to participate in an exercise program involving group exercise sessions two days a week. The sessions included aerobic exercise, strength, balance, and flexibility training. The other half of the group of 56 people went to weekly 30 to 60-minute group education sessions. The participants held a group discussion and also learned about healthy eating, living wills, and dementia awareness.

Testing was conducted to see the difference in cognitive improvements between the group that took part in the exercise program and the group that took part in the education sessions.

According to the study, the group that took part in the exercise sessions showed no evidence of improved cognitive function. However, cognitive scores were way up for participants in the weekly group education sessions.

Researchers speculated that members of the education group may have acted on the education they received about improving lifestyle behaviors. The group also likely benefited from social engagement.

Researchers also gave a potential explanation as to why the exercise group did not see the same cognitive improvements. Experts believe the intensity or dose of physical activity may not have been enough to improve brain health.

“Important and exciting research like this exemplifies the discoveries that are happening at Pennington Biomedical,” said Dr. John Kirwan, executive director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “As we learn more about ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, this type of research study could go a long way in helping to find ways to improve cognition and ensure healthy aging in our elderly populations.”

The study was called the Program or African American Cognition Exercise. The results from the study were published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Researchers hope that follow-up research will focus on improving the effectiveness of the exercise program and investigating what made the education program successful.

For more about the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, click here.

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