As the Baby Boom generation continues to swell the ranks of retirees, more people fear that dementia – which afflicts more than 5.3 million Americans and growing – will strike and rob them of their well-deserved golden years. Fortunately, recent papers and studies suggest that the most common form, Alzheimer’s, can be slowed by exercise, including swimming and water aerobics.

A recently published study from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed that high levels of a gene called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may provide the key to slowing development of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Aron Buchman’s team studied 535 people, with an average age of 81, for an average of six years, testing their cognitive functions (thought processes and memory) each year. After their deaths, the researchers took note of the BDNF levels in the brain.

The study, published in Journal of Neurology, showed that exercise boosted BDNF levels. Subjects with the highest BDNF levels experienced a 50 percent slower loss of cognitive functions compared with those showing the lowest BDNF levels.

>> For more on how swimming can aid those living with dementia, click here.