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Sunday 27th May 2018

Alzheimer's slowed by exercise

15th July 2008

A study of older people in the United States has found that remaining physically fit could confer an advantage in preventing the development of Alzheimer's in those who are in the early stages of the disease.

Old Woman 400

The study found that being physically fit could stave off memory loss and brain shrinkage, after studying a group of 121 people over 60.

Published in the journal Neurology, the study showed that the least fit participants had four times more signs of brain shrinkage than those who exercised regularly.

The study builds on previous research which has also indicated that exercise reduces the risk of dementia.

Lead author Jeffrey Burns of the University of Kansas School of Medicine said his study focused in particular on the effects of exercise on people already in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Burns said his results showed that those in this group might also be able to preserve their brain function for a longer period through regular exercise.

Populations throughout the world are ageing, especially in developed countries. In the United Kingdom, some 700,000 people are living with dementia, and their number is expected to rise sharply in the next 20 years.

Volunteers in the study underwent a treadmill test to see how fit they were and then their brains were scanned for shrinkage, which is one way of measuring the progression of Alzheimer's.

In those who did not have Alzheimer's at all, there was little correlation between exercise patterns and brain volume. However, those with early-stage Alzheimer's who stayed fit were on average four times better off than those who were unfit.

Evidence shows decreasing brain volume is tied to poorer cognitive performance, so preserving more brain volume may translate into better cognitive performance, Burns said.

Other experts agreed, saying that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients.

According to Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, a healthy heart also means a healthy brain.

Alzheimer's Research Trust chief executive Rebecca Wood agreed, saying that a balanced diet and regular exercise could improve the quality of life of older people with dementia, as well as those who do not have the condition.


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