Dr. Robert Drapkin Analyzes New Study Reveals Higher Fitness Levels Improves Brain Function in Older Adults

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Connection between brain activation, cardiorespiratory fitness and executive function is established, highlighting the relationship between exercise and improved cognition, and reversing the assumption that brain health always declines with age.

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This study proves that keeping physically fit throughout life is key to avoiding cognitive decline. Healthy lifestyles are also known to prevent chronic medical conditions and lifestyle-related diseases.

A new study has revealed the connection between brain activation, cardiorespiratory fitness and executive function in older adults. Researchers from the University of Illinois Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology linked higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels with higher brain function, contradicting commonly accepted ideas that the aging process invariably leads to declines in executive function in the brain. (1) The study reinforces the long-held view of Robert Drapkin, MD, board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care, who maintains that physical activity enhances our quality of life as we age.

The researchers studied 128 adults between 59 and 80 years of age, examining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans and fitness level data. They analyzed areas of the brain that were activated while participants completed two simultaneous tasks, in order to measure executive function. (2)

Executive function often declines as people age, but in this study, researchers found that with a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness, both performance and brain activation related to executive function are enhanced. Study participants with higher cardiorespiratory fitness activated a region of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex and the supplementary motor area (ACC/SMA), which is important for multiple cognitive processes, such as problem solving, reasoning and task management. Participants’ fMRI scans revealed that physical activity resulted in increased brain connections.

“This study proves that keeping physically fit throughout life is key to avoiding cognitive decline. Healthy lifestyles are also known to prevent chronic medical conditions and lifestyle-related diseases,” said Dr. Drapkin. “We can’t avoid aging, but by being physically active, we can improve our quality of life and enjoy healthy aging.”

As the average lifespan in the U.S. has increased from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86 years for women, (3) healthcare expenditures have skyrocketed and four in 10 adults in are now caring for sick or elderly family members. (4) Per Dr. Drapkin, adopting healthy habits, such as proper diet and regular exercise, can prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and premature deaths from smoking, obesity and alcohol. Healthier lifestyles also significantly reduce individual expenditures on healthcare, and help seniors retain their independence longer.

Dr. Drapkin has focused his career on helping people over 40 get into the best shape of their lives by sharing his decades of research and study on diet and exercise, as well as his personal experience. He is inspired to help his patients improve their quality of life, activity level and happiness. At age 70, he is an active, world-class bodybuilder, with several first-place championships:

  •     2014 Southeastern Competition Men Over 70 Years
  •     2008 Tampa Classic Open Men Bantam Weight
  •     2005 Southern States Competition Men Over 60 Years
  •     2004 Tampa Classic Men Over 50 Years

About Dr. Robert Drapkin, MD, FACP:

Robert Drapkin, MD, is a health care provider who is board certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology, and Palliative Care. He is in active practice, working to save lives and improve quality of life through the education of his patients. He provides up-to-date knowledge and guides patients through their illnesses, exercises and diets. He has been in active medicine practice for over 36 years. Dr. Drapkin is currently 70 years old and started training as a body builder when he was in his fifties. He has been a competitive body builder for 17 years, and has won many titles and contests. For more information visit http://drrobertmdfacp.com/.

1.    “Connection Found Between Fitness Level, Brain Activity and Executive Function;” Science Daily, September 11, 2015; accessed September 16, 2015. sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150911111037.htm.

2.    “Study Reveals Connection Between Fitness Level, Brain Activity and Executive Function;” Beckman Institute, September 10, 2015; accessed September 16, 2015. beckman.illinois.edu/news/2015/09/fitness-level-brain-activity-executive-function.

3.    “Women Lag in Life-Expectancy Gains,” USA TODAY; April 19, 2012; accessed September 16, 2015. usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/health/story/2012-04-19/Life-expectancy-improves-slower-for-women/54419298/1.

4.    “Caregivers: Two-Fifths of U.S. Adults Care for Sick, Elderly Relatives;” Huffington Post, June 20, 2013; accessed September 16, 2015. huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/caregivers-adults-care-for-elderly-relatives-sandwich-generation_n_3469779.html.

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