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Physical Fitness May Slow Down Alzheimer’s

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 10:06 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Alzheimer's and Dementia, Aging, Physical Fitness

Exercise shown to preserve brains from shrinking, which happens in Alzheimers.  



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ Alzheimer’s in stages/ author: NASA 


According to a new study, those who have symptoms of Alzheimer's and who exercise regularly have four times less brain shrinkage than those who do not hit the pavement.

The study is released in the journal Neurology.

It makes sense.  For those who have normal brain activity, it’s been shown that exercise improves thinking and memory. The theory is that exercise boosts blood flow and elevates growth hormones. 

Dr. Jeffrey Burns of the University Of Kansas School Of Medicine wanted to find out if exercise could preserve the brain functioning for a longer period of time when people are faced with early signs of Alzheimer’s. It’s one of the first time this theory has been tested.  

With Alzheimer’s the functioning of the brain, including short term memory, declines as the disease kills nerve cells, which in turn causes the brain to lose volume.

Researchers from the Departments of Neurology and Molecular & Integrative Physiology and the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, looked at 121 people over the age of 60. About half of them had early stages of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s patients were studied for their level of fitness and compared to those with no dementia.  After time on a treadmill to determine peak oxygen consumption their cardiorespiratory fitness was measured.  The participants were measured for their amount of regular physical activity, given a mental assessment, and subjected to an MRI of the gray and white matter in the brains.

Those who were less fit had four times more brain shrinkage. Their brains were measured with the amount of atrophy, estimated by MRI, compared to brain volume and cognitive performance.

Further study will try and determine if exercise actually prevents brain loss or just improves brain function.

The National Institute on Aging and the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded the research using magnetic scans to measure the size of the brain.

There was no a relationship between the size of the brain and the amount of exercise in people without Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately for Alzheimer’s patients, the ability to exercise is often impaired as the disease progresses.

So while exercise might keep you closer to your ideal weight, it might also bring heart, lung and brain fitness to peak functioning.  

That’s a great improvement over the five drugs that treat Alzheimer's but they only work on symptoms for up to one year.

It’s expected that five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, but that number is expected to triple over the next few decades. Because of that there is an accelerated worldwide effort to treat the disease. More than 95% of what we know today has been learned over the last 15 years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association

As part of its routine disclosure, the journal, Neurology, reports that Dr. Burns, the lead researcher, has received honoraria for speaking from Pfizer and Novartis and as a consultant from Pfizer.

Also disclosed is the fact that Dr. Swerdlow has received honoraria from Forest, Eisai, Pfizer, and Ortho-McNeil for speaking. There was no information on the other researchers. #


Anonymous User
Posted by Ryan Beymer
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 11:01 AM EST

Funny... finally figured out that exercising serves more than skin deep. HA

Anonymous User
Posted by Paula Theis
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 11:44 AM EST

My father walked five miles a day and was in faily good health. he had colon cancer in his 60's, but they removed the growths. He died of Alzheimers at 87. I believe that this disease is passed down thru families. His dad had it, my dad had it and only one of his sisters has it now. this is out of six chlidren. It does not hit everyone. The one thing I saw in my dad at an early age was his compulson to check and recheck things. He was an accountant, but he even rechecked to make sure he locked the doors!

Anonymous User
Posted by Captain Obvious
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12:47 PM EST

I can not resist the urge to type a one word reply to this article.


A fit body == a fit mind. Healthy mind == healthy body.

Yes, it is true. Taking care of your body instead of giving up and slowly resigning yourself to a cane, then a walker, and then your own personal granny go-kart is going to keep you healthy.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 11:47 PM EST

You are correct Captain, but no one had ever measured the obvious in people with early Alzheimer's disease, so this is new and gives a glimmer of hope for those who are facing a certain decline. If it can be slowed even a little bit, a person has some feeling of control over their future... and that's a big step. Thanks for writing.
J.Akre, Editor

Comments for this article are closed.

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