The Power of Physical Activity

Women of Baycrest With the advent of public health, immunization and better health education, Canadians are living longer. It’s possible that for some women, “60 is the new 40,” said conference presenter Dr. Marla Shapiro, a family physician, broadcaster, and associate professor in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. But she emphasized that healthy aging is a lifelong process.

While genetic inheritance plays a role in health, taking action – eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically and mentally active – can trump genetics for some. “For example, there’s evidence that regular physical exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s involved in memory and cognition,” she said.

But skyrocketing levels of obesity in young, middle-aged and older women across the country portends an epidemic of cognitive impairment in the future, said Dr. Shapiro.

“It’s true that as women age, changes in fat metabolism occur that can translate into weight gain. But mid-life and older women must be vigilant and take action – eating fewer calories, adding aerobic and resistance exercise – to keep unhealthy mid-life weight gain at bay.”

Is it ever too late to make such changes? While it’s better to start earlier, all women, regardless of age, should re-evaluate what they’re doing and make positive changes if necessary, Dr. Shapiro said. “This includes working with your doctor to identify and deal with your specific risk factors for stroke, heart attack and diabetes which go hand-in-hand with cognitive problems later in life.”

For more information on the conference, please visit womenofbaycrest.com.

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