Can Certain Activities Slash Alzheimer’s Risk in Half?
We hear all the time how exercise is good for the brain. Yet according to a new study, virtually any physical activity, such as gardening, dancing and walking, is so beneficial that it can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s in half. It turns out that exercise increases brain volume. Smaller brain volume and brain shrinkage are linked to cognitive impairment, whereas an increase in brain volume improves memory and cognition.
“Our current treatments for dementia are limited in their effectiveness, so developing approaches to prevent or slow these disorders is crucial,” said co-author Dr. James Becker of the University of Pittsburgh. “Our study is one of the largest to examine the relationship between physical activity and cognitive decline, and the results strongly support the notion that staying active maintains brain health.”
Exercise Increases Brain Volume in Healthy Participants and in Those with Mild Cognitive Impairment
The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease involved 876 men and women over the age of 65. Magnetic resonance imaging scans and periodic cognitive tests were used to assess brain volume and function. The participants were also questioned about how often they engaged in physical activities to determine the amount of calories they burned each week.
Analysis of the results showed a link between increased exercise and larger volume in parts of the brain related to memory. Amazingly, those who had the boosted volume had a 50 percent reduction in their risk of Alzheimer’s. In addition, the 25 percent of the participants who had mild cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s also experienced an increase in brain volume due to the higher amounts of exercise.
Burning Calories Increases Grey Matter
A second part of the study revealed the participants who burned the most calories had more grey matter in parts of the brain associated with learning, memory and performing complex cognitive tasks. A subset of 300 participants with increased grey matter was also half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s five years later. Moreover, those with mild cognitive impairment who burned the most calories had a decrease in the shrinking of grey matter over time.
How Significant Are the Results?
A comparison of the brain volume of participants who exercised the most and those who exercised the least showed a difference of a mere 5 percent. Although such a small increase in brain volume doesn’t sound impressive, it halved the risk of Alzheimer’s over five years. Past research indicates that if the onset of the disease can be delayed five years, the number of cases would fall by 50 percent. A 10-year delay would come close to eradicating Alzheimer’s because people would die of other causes before they developed dementia. As we have seen time and time again, little changes can produce big health results.
People in their senior years may not be able to engage in aerobics or calisthenics, but almost anyone can walk, garden, swim or dance. The good news from this landmark study is that even less vigorous forms of exercise can reduce the risk and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating illness that afflicts millions.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.