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Ask a doctor: ‘How can I prevent scarring from bug bites and poison ivy?’

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Ask a doctor: ‘How can I prevent scarring from bug bites and poison ivy?’

With the arrival of summer comes more time spent outdoors — which also means a greater risk of itchy skin conditions.

Bug bites and stings are naturally more prevalent in the warmer weather, which brings out more insects, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Also, exposure to skin-irritating plants — most notably, poison ivy — increases during the summer months.

5 TIPS FOR RAMPING UP YOUR SKIN CARE ROUTINE THIS SPRING FROM A BEAUTY EXPERT

As bug bites and conditions like poison ivy become more common, the resulting itching and scratching can wreak havoc on the skin. 

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To help reduce the likelihood of scabbing and scarring, Fox News Digital reached out to three medical doctors, who offered their best advice for conquering the itch and keeping skin healthy.

Bug bites and stings are naturally more prevalent in warmer weather, which brings out more insects, according to the National Institutes of Health. (iStock)

Here’s what to know.

What causes the itching?

Local skin reactions are caused by an inflammatory response to one or more of the substances injected by the biting insect or secreted by the offending plant or chemical, Mark Loafman, M.D., a board-certified family physician with Cook County Health in Chicago, told Fox News Digital.  

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“This reaction typically remains localized,” he said.

“But in some cases, it can spread to cause a more systemic or more generalized reaction — either through our bloodstream or, as is the case with poison ivy and poison oak, by inadvertently spreading the substance to other areas with our hands and clothing.”

What causes scarring?

With bug bites or allergic reactions to poison ivy, the bites and rashes themselves do not typically cause disruption to the skin barrier, but they can cause a lot of inflammation, said Chris G. Adigun, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill in North Carolina. 

The inflammation can lead to persistent redness and pigmentation, even if the bite or rash is not scratched. 

spraying mosquito repellant

Wearing protective clothing and using insect repellents, especially during the evening hours, can help prevent skin irritants, experts say. (iStock)

“This discoloration will resolve over time,” she told Fox News Digital.

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If the bite or poison ivy is scratched, especially to the point that the skin barrier is disrupted and causes bleeding, that causes a wound that may leave a permanent scar, the doctor warned.

Tips to manage the itching

Once you’ve been bitten or see evidence of poison ivy, experts recommend administering prompt treatment with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream, calamine lotion or 1% hydrocortisone cream.

If over-the-counter creams and gels don’t stop the itching, there are other, stronger medicines to try. 

“Both poison ivy and bug bites are very itchy, and the sooner the inflammation is calmed down, the faster the healing process will be,” Lauren Fine, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Fine Dermatology in Chicago, told Fox News Digital.

IS IT JUST A MOSQUITO BITE — OR COULD IT BE ‘SKEETER SYNDROME’? HERE’S WHAT TO KNOW

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“Often, the most skin damage is done from aggressive scratching, which will cause more itching and inflammation.”

If over-the-counter creams and gels don’t stop the itching, there are other, stronger medicines to try. 

woman scratches arm

Once you’ve been bitten or see evidence of poison ivy, experts recommend administering prompt treatment with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream, calamine lotion or 1% hydrocortisone cream. (iStock)

“Oral antihistamines can help with ongoing or recurring itchy skin problems, but be cautious about dosing and drug interactions,” said Loafman with Cook County Health.

It’s also important to be mindful of sun exposure, experts noted. 

        

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Fine recommended applying sunscreen to affected areas and keeping active lesions out the sun. 

To prevent scratching and potential skin damage, she also suggested keeping bites and rashes covered so that there is less temptation to scratch.

Exposure to skin-irritating plants — most notably, poison ivy — increases during the summer months.

Exposure to skin-irritating plants — most notably, poison ivy — increases during the summer months. (iStock)

Wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent, especially during the evening hours, can help prevent skin irritants, Fine said.

For best results, use products that contain active ingredients approved by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health 

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You can also check with your family doctor or a pharmacist for bug repellent suggestions, experts advise.

If extreme itching or skin disruptions continue, it’s wisest to check with a doctor or dermatologist as well. Some people are more sensitive to skin issues than others and may need prescription medication.

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Tiger mosquitoes blamed for spread of dengue fever: ‘Most invasive species’

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Tiger mosquitoes blamed for spread of dengue fever: ‘Most invasive species’

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As dengue fever continues to spread throughout Europe, experts are blaming an invasive mosquito species as the culprit.

Known as “tiger mosquitoes,” the insects — of the species name Aedes albopictus — have spread into 13 EU countries, according to an alert from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

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Elitza Theel, PhD, director of Mayo Clinic Laboratories in Minnesota, confirmed that tiger mosquitoes are a “known vector” for dengue virus and can transmit the virus to individuals who have not previously been infected.

​​HOW CAN I PREVENT SCARRING FROM BUG BITES AND POISON IVY?

“This mosquito species is concerning for a number of reasons, including that it is considered the most invasive species in the world,” she told Fox News Digital.

“Although typically considered a tropical mosquito, it is able to survive in cooler climates.”

Tiger mosquitoes — the species Aedes albopictus — have spread into 13 EU countries, according to an alert from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (iStock)

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The mosquito species is moving further and further north globally as temperatures grow warmer, the expert said. 

“Tiger mosquitoes are also rather aggressive, biting both humans and animals at any time of the day, rather than just at dawn or dusk, which is typical of other mosquito species,” Theel warned.

Health officials claimed that climate change is one of the factors contributing to the spread of these insects.

UNDERSTANDING THE SEVERITY OF THE MOSQUITO-BORNE DISEASE DENGUE

“Europe is already seeing how climate change is creating more favorable conditions for invasive mosquitoes to spread into previously unaffected areas and infect more people with diseases such as dengue,” said Andrea Ammon, ECDC director, in a press release from the agency.

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“Increased international travel from dengue-endemic countries will also increase the risk of imported cases, and inevitably also the risk of local outbreaks,” she continued. 

“This mosquito species is concerning for a number of reasons.”

“Personal protective measures combined with vector control measures, early detection of cases, timely surveillance, further research and awareness-raising activities are paramount in those areas in Europe most at risk.”

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a virus spread through bites from an infected mosquito. 

It is common in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Islands, among other countries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Each year, up to 400 million people are infected, the CDC said.

Woman vaccine clinic

There is a vaccine available for U.S. children between 9 and 16 years of age who have previously tested positive for dengue and are living in areas where the infection is common.  (iStock)

Typical symptoms include aches and pains (in the eyes, muscles, joints or bones), nausea, vomiting and rash, usually experienced within two weeks of being bitten.

Most people experience symptoms for two to seven days before recovering.

“It’s typically a more mild illness, but can be severe, causing headaches, joint pain, fever, abdominal pain and even death,” Dr. Mark Fischer, regional medical director of International SOS, a leading medical and security services company, told Fox News Digital. 

MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS TRIGGERED BY TICK BITE COULD AFFECT THOUSANDS, YET MANY DOCTORS ARE UNAWARE OF IT

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“One of the reasons for the higher rate of infection is due to the fact that the tiger mosquito, the carrier of dengue, has adapted to living in urban environments and alongside humans,” said Pennsylvania-based Fischer.

There is not currently a medication to treat dengue, the CDC noted. 

“This species … has established populations in several [U.S.] states.”

Infected people are advised to rest, take acetaminophen for pain and fever, stay hydrated and see a doctor.

There is a vaccine available for U.S. children between 9 and 16 years of age who have previously tested positive for dengue and are living in areas where the infection is common. 

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Dengue fever in the US

While dengue fever is most prevalent in the tropics and subtropics, experts warn that it’s also rising globally.

“Based on information from the National Invasive Species Information Center, this species of mosquito was first identified in the United States in 1985 and has established populations in several states,” Fischer told Fox News Digital.

Sick man

Typical symptoms include aches and pains (in the eyes, muscles, joints or bones), nausea, vomiting and rash, usually experienced within two weeks of being bitten by an infected mosquito. (iStock)

There does not currently seem to be an immediate threat of tiger mosquitoes to the U.S., however, noted Fischer.

“That said, with climate change affecting the globe and tiger mosquitoes thriving in warm temperatures and in urban cities, it is possible that they can become an increasing danger in the coming months and years,” he said.

In 2024, there were 1,984 dengue cases in the U.S., according to CDC data.

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TICK BITES AND LYME DISEASE: WHAT TO DO IF A TICK BITES YOU OR YOUR PET

Most of those were reported by people who had been infected outside the country before returning.

“Although this species of mosquito is currently found in the U.S., at present it is considered a nuisance mosquito, because the viruses it is competent to transmit are not circulating or endemic in the United States,” Theel said.

Other risks of mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are considered the world’s deadliest animal because they transmit so many dangerous pathogens, with dengue being the most common — “over 390 million infections annually worldwide,” Theel noted.

While dengue is one of the “most concerning viral pathogens” that mosquitoes transmit, Theel warned that they also transmit malaria, which causes over 240 million infections each year and remains a serious problem in Africa and regions of southeast Asia. 

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Mosquito on arm

Mosquitoes are considered the world’s deadliest animal because they transmit so many dangerous pathogens. Dengue is the most common — “over 390 million infections annually worldwide,” one expert noted. (iStock)

“These mosquitoes can also transmit other viruses, like Chikungunya virus and Zika virus, to humans — and dirofilaria, a parasitic nematode, to both dogs and humans,” she said.

“The West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus are some of the mosquito-borne viruses that we are concerned with annually in the U.S., all of which can lead to severe neurologic disease and sequelae,” Theel added.

“Each year, one million people die from mosquito-related illness, so these insects do pose a serious threat to global health.”

Depending on where in the world they reside, some people may be more at risk for some of these illnesses than others, said Fischer. 

“It is important to check your local government resources to see which, if any, of these diseases you may be most susceptible to and make sure you are taking proper precautions to avoid mosquito-borne illness,” he advised.

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“Each year, one million people die from mosquito-related illness, so these insects do pose a serious threat to global health.”

Prevention of mosquito-borne disease

In its alert, the ECDC called for “efficient but eco-friendly tools to manage mosquito populations” and recommended “removing stagnant water in gardens or balconies where mosquitoes breed.”

“It’s important to wear insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or lemon and eucalyptus oil, as these ingredients are the most effective at repelling mosquitoes and other insects,” Fischer advised. 

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“Those who live in areas with mosquito populations should try to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially at dusk and in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active, to avoid getting bitten on exposed skin.”

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Keeping screens on windows and doors is also a good way to prevent insects from entering and potentially causing the spread of disease, he said. 

Person applies bug spray outside.

Individuals should always use EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors in areas where mosquitoes and ticks are prevalent, an expert advised. (iStock)

“If you live in an area that has a high level of mosquito-borne diseases, you should use mosquito nets when sleeping and eliminate any standing water in and around the home, since still bodies of water are breeding grounds for the insects,” Fischer recommended.

                               

“Individuals should always use EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors in areas where mosquitoes and ticks are prevalent — particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active,” Theel recommended. 

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health

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“If camping or spending prolonged time outdoors and in forested areas, individuals could consider treating their clothing with permethrin to repel insects as well.”

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Children swimming in Virginia lake hospitalized after E. coli, gastrointestinal illnesses

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Children swimming in Virginia lake hospitalized after E. coli, gastrointestinal illnesses

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Health officials in Virginia are investigating a surge of brutal gastrointestinal illnesses reported in children who were at a popular lake over Memorial Day weekend, with a number of them ending up in a hospital.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) says that some people who were in the water at Lake Anna have been diagnosed with Escherichia coli (E. coli) infections, which cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. Symptoms can also include vomiting, fever, chills and, in severe cases, the infection can damage organs such as the kidneys. 

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Most kinds of E. coli are harmless, but some can make someone sick, the Centers for Diseases and Infections said.

Judy Inglett, a mother from Fauquier County, said her 15-year-old daughter came down with symptoms after she returned from Lake Anna, and she has had at least two rounds of dialysis since being hospitalized.

HIGH LEVELS OF RESISTANT BACTERIA FOUND IN UNCOOKED MEATS AND RAW DOG FOOD: ‘RED FLAG’

An aerial photo shows Dominion Energy’s North Anna Power Station along the shores of Lake Anna in Mineral, Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” Inglett told Fox 10 News. “She left on that Friday, on that weekend, and she was fine. And now she is, like, fighting for her life.”

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Inglett said her daughter has been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare but serious disease that affects the kidneys and blood clotting functions of infected people.

“She’s in kidney failure. I wouldn’t even let my dogs swim in that lake. There is definitely something going on. It’s not safe,” Inglett told the outlet.

The VDH said in a press release last week that clinical evaluation and treatment of patients is ongoing. 

The agency said that it is investigating all potential causes of illness, including lake water and food exposures. Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater inland reservoirs in Virginia, covering an area of 13,000 acres and is located 72 miles south of Washington, D.C. 

E. COLI STRAIN LINKED TO LEAFY GREENS ASSOCIATED WITH OUTBREAKS, RESEARCH LED BY CDC DOCTOR SAYS

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empty kayak on shore

Swimming, fishing and boating are allowed on the lake. (Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

“While all the ill people confirm swimming or other water exposures in Lake Anna, VDH does not have enough information at this time to confirm that exposure to the lake, or any specific portion of the lake is the cause of the illnesses,” the VDH press release read. “Water testing of the lake to evaluate present concentrations of bacteria, and to determine whether a public health risk may be ongoing, is being conducted.”

The illnesses are not suspected as Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) related, as the pathogen is not associated with HABs, the VDH said. Fox News Digital has reached out to the department for updates.

“There is definitely something going on. It’s not safe.”

— Judy Inglett

Another parent, Nate Hiner, told Fox 10 News that his 8-year-old twins were sent to Children’s National Hospital. His daughter received blood and platelet transfusions.

Hiner also said he believes the symptoms stem from their Memorial Day weekend lake visit.

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“It’s terrifying to just go from having a fun day at the lake to potentially needing dialysis in an 8-year-old child. It’s just unfathomable to think of as a parent,” he told the outlet. 

Swimming, fishing and boating are allowed on the reservoir that spans Louisa, Spotsylvania and Orange counties, according to Virginia State Parks.

Some neighbors told Fox 10 News that they were not surprised to learn the lake might be contaminated since large groups of people dock their boats at a sandbar, with some using the water when they need to use the bathroom.

The VDH said it did not have enough information to support a swimming advisory but does encourage caution when swimming.

E. coli

E. coli bacteria of the O157:H7 strain seen under a microscope. (Janice Haney Carr/CDC via AP, File)

“As we head to pools, lakes, and beaches to enjoy the warmer weather and spend time with our families, it is important to remember to take precautions to prevent illness,” Dr. Olugbenga O. Obasanjo, the Rappahannock health district health director, said.

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“Showering before and after swimming, washing your hands before eating, and being sure not to drink the lake water are some of the ways to stay healthy this summer.”

“It is also important not to swim if you have diarrhea. Children may need extra monitoring and reminders to follow these precautions. Germs in water can cause minor illnesses (rashes, diarrhea) or more serious illnesses that last longer than vacation.”

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‘Reversing’ Alzheimer’s: Here are exercises to make the brain more resilient

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‘Reversing’ Alzheimer’s: Here are exercises to make the brain more resilient

Can Alzheimer’s disease be reversed?

Dr. Heather Sandison, a renowned expert in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia care, believes that reversal isn’t just possible — but that it’s already happening in multiple patients. 

In her new book “Reversing Alzheimer’s: The New Tool Kit to Improve Cognition and Protect Brain Health,” which was published by HarperCollins on June 11, Sandison — who is based in California — offers a step-by-step guide to helping Alzheimer’s patients improve their overall brain health.

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One of the core elements of Sandison’s program is a focus on exercise as one of the most important lifestyle factors in preventing and controlling dementia. 

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Research has shown that physical activity can reduce the likelihood and progression of Alzheimer’s. 

Dr. Heather Sandison, at left, is a naturopathic doctor specializing in neurocognitive medicine and the founder of Solcere Health Clinic, San Diego’s premier brain optimization clinic, and Marama, the first residential memory care facility to have the goal of returning cognitively declined residents to independent living. (Dr. Heather Sandison/iStock)

In the excerpt below, Sandison offers some specific recommendations for the types of exercise that can benefit patients living with the disease. 

Read an excerpt from ‘Reversing Alzheimer’s’

Dr. Heather Sandison: Need a new motivation to be active? Exercise is medicine for the brain and provides an amazing array of benefits. 

Most obviously, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, including to the brain. That means getting your body moving will deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your brain while also flushing away more waste products. 

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Exercise also strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system, which helps improve blood flow even when you’re not working out; it also reduces the risk of arterial plaques that might disrupt blood flow to the brain and contribute to dementia.

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The overarching reason that exercise is such a powerful health protector is that it is what’s known as a hormetic, or a beneficial stressor. 

Basically, when you put your body through its paces, the body is forced to use up resources, and your tissues can even be broken down a bit. (That’s what happens when you lift weights: Your muscles tear a tiny bit.) 

Dr. Heather Sandison

Dr. Heather Sandison, an expert in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia care, believes that reversal isn’t just possible but that it’s already happening in multiple patients.  (Dr. Heather Sandison)

In that sense, you’re introducing stress to your system, but that stress is a force for good, because it triggers your body to get more efficient at using its resources and your tissues to grow back even stronger. In other words, exercise makes your body — including your brain — more resilient.

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Exercise benefits several of the root causes of neurological disease.

It improves structure by increasing your cardiovascular capacity and boosting circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the brain.

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It reduces stress in multiple ways — by giving you an outlet to blow off steam, by producing feel-good hormones such as endorphins and lowering the stress hormone cortisol, and, depending on what kind of exercise you choose, getting you outside and into nature, which is a well-known stress reliever. 

It can also be social, and a great way to spend time with friends or even meet new people, which helps address the loneliness and social isolation that The Lancet lists as one of the modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

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"Reversing Alzheimer's"

In her new book “Reversing Alzheimer’s: The New Tool Kit to Improve Cognition and Protect Brain Health,” published by HarperCollins on June 11, Sandison — based in California — offers a step-by-step guide to helping Alzheimer’s patients improve their overall brain health. (HarperCollins)

It improves sleep by tiring you out.

It strengthens immune function, which reduces the risk and effects of infection — all those muscular contractions and moving against gravity improves the flow of lymphatic fluid, which delivers immune cells and flushes away invader cells.

“Exercise benefits several of the root causes of neurological disease.”

It promotes detox, both through increased circulation and through sweating. 

It improves signaling, as challenging and strengthening your muscles triggers the release of multiple signaling molecules, known as exerkines, that have demonstrated neuroprotective functions.

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Dr. Heather Sandison

“The overarching reason that exercise is such a powerful health protector is that it is what’s known as a hormetic, or a beneficial stressor,” Sandison writes in her new book. (Dr. Heather Sandison)

If you do only one thing: Change up your current exercise routine in a way that challenges your brain and amps up the intensity. 

If you are a devoted walker, find a new route that includes hills or stairs. If you’re open to trying something different, check out a new exercise class that you’ve been meaning to try.              

Categories of exercise: some familiar, some cutting-edge

There are four types of exercise that you want to prioritize. Four may sound like a lot, but they are not mutually exclusive. 

You can combine at least two types of exercise in one session — you can turn strength training into cardio by performing your strength moves in high-intensity intervals, or you can make your cardio dual task by doing something that requires your mental focus while you move.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is what we think of as “cardio” — it gets your heart and blood pumping and includes forms of exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, dancing and swimming.

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Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart, and what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain, because your heart sends the brain the blood, oxygen, and nutrients that your brain relies on to function.

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Your first goal with adding more exercise to your life is to get 150 to 200 minutes of aerobic exercise each week so that you get your heart rate into the vigorous zone of 70-85% of maximum heart rate. 

Listening to your body and adjusting your intensity level based on your perceived exertion is one of the best ways to know if you are pushing yourself hard enough.

Strength training    

Strength training — also known as resistance training — is just what it sounds like: using weights or other forms of resistance to build muscle tissue.

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Building muscle — particularly in the big muscle groups of the legs, hips, and torso — is directly related to brain health, because these muscles generate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a “fertilizer” for the brain, cueing it to create new neuronal connections and promoting neuroplasticity.

Woman lifting weight

Alzheimer’s patients should aim for at least two strength-training sessions per week, notes the author of a new book.  (iStock)

You want to aim for at least two strength-training sessions per week. Strength training doesn’t have to involve your standard barbells and bench pressing your body weight. 

You can use resistance bands, light dumbbells, or even the weight of your own body in exercises like squats, lunges and planks. 

Even climbing stairs or hills counts as strength training and cardio in one activity, because they get your heart rate up as they also keep the muscles of the legs and hips strong.                    

Dual-task training

This next-level form of exercise combines physical movement with a cognitive challenge. The simplest form of this is walking and talking. 

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What is a cognitive challenge will vary from person to person, but if you’re in prevention mode, listening to a foreign language lesson or a nonfiction book while you walk outside or ride the stationary bike, and then pausing the recording to recap what you’ve just learned every few minutes, is a good option. 

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For some people, going to a Pilates or yoga class or other class where you really have to pay attention to the teacher’s cues constitutes dual-task training — but not if it’s something you’ve been doing for long enough that you can zone out. 

“Exercise is such a powerful health intervention that if we could just bottle it, we could probably get rid of chronic disease.”

And if you have already started experiencing measurable cognitive decline, dual-task training may look like going on a walk while pointing out the names of the plants that you pass along the way, or having someone quiz you on the names of family members, or recalling family stories or important dates. 

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Wherever you are, you want to be working right on your edge — you can almost feel the wheels of your brain turning in order to stay focused.

Contrast oxygen therapy

This relatively unique form of training alternates the amount of oxygen in the air you breathe as you exercise — an approach that encourages the tiniest blood vessels (known as your microvasculature) throughout your body, including your brain, to open up, resulting in greatly enhanced blood flow. 

It’s similar to going to altitude to train and build your aerobic capacity, and it is incredibly valuable for cognitive function.         

Walk

“Exercise does take time and effort, but making this one activity a regular part of your life addresses so many causal factors of dementia that it can profoundly reduce your risk,” Sandison says in her book. (iStock)

This type of exercise does require specialized gear. You can buy the device, or go find a clinic near you where you can try it out. It does require you to wear a mask that is hooked up to a machine while you exercise, and when the oxygen saturation is low, it can be intense because you have to work harder to bring in enough air. 

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In other words, contrast oxygen therapy is not for everyone. But if you are willing and able, it can be dramatically helpful.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health 

Honestly, exercise is such a powerful health intervention that if we could just bottle it, we could probably get rid of chronic disease. 

Exercise does take time and effort, but making this one activity a regular part of your life addresses so many causal factors of dementia that it can profoundly reduce your risk.

Excerpted with permission from the new book, “Reversing Alzheimer’s: The New Tool Kit to Improve Cognition and Protect Brain Health” (HarperCollins) by Dr. Heather Sandison, copyright © 2024 by Dr. Heather Sandison. All rights reserved. 

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