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Fighting Shrinkage: Exercise Keeps Brain from Shrinking, Slows Alzheimer’s

Human Brain There is always news coming out of the health world regarding advances in our knowledge of diseases and what can be done to prevent them. Here’s the latest news that is really no news at all in terms of our knowledge of how good it is for our health. But to this point, we didn’t know it was so good for battling a certain disease.

Published in the July edition of the journal Neurology, researchers from the University of Kansas and its school of medicine have discovered that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can slow its debilitating effects depending on how fit they are.

The researchers examined the brain size of 121 participants 60 years of age or older. Approximately half of the participants had been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; the other participants had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nor did they show any signs of other dementia-related diseases.

When the researchers compared the participants’ brain sizes and measured their level of fitness – which was determined by measuring their oxygen consumption while walking on a treadmill – they found that brain size was correlated with how fit the participants were. For example, among the participants with Alzheimer’s, those who were the fittest exhibited the smallest amount of brain shrinkage compared to the patients not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But the least fit among the Alzheimer’s group exhibited the largest amount of brain shrinkage when compared to the non-Alzheimer’s group. It’s believed that the larger the brain is for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, the longer he or she will be able to function before succumbing to the crippling effects of the disease, such as frequent forgetfulness, inability to communicate, changes in behavior, no longer recognizing common faces and not being able to do what were once common tasks (e.g. Writing a check, feeding one’s self, driving, etc).  

While there was no observable change in the participants’ brain size among those without Alzheimer’s and were also fit, the researchers point out that previous studies point to how regular exercise can help keep the brain from changing its formation as people age. 

While this is indeed an important, encouraging and motivating reason to exercise regularly, the researchers caution not to read too much into the results. This is because their testing examined how fit participants were at one given point in time. If they truly want to test how effective exercise is to Alzheimer’s patients and their health, they’d likely have to examine their fitness levels for an extended period of time.

Nevertheless, as I recently wrote, more and more good news regarding Alzheimer’s and what can be done to prevent – or lessen its severity – is making headlines today (see “Fixing Memory Goofs with Grape Juice”). Like cancer, Alzheimer’s is something more and more of us are touched by in one way or another. Let us hope that these findings will hasten the arrival of a cure to Alzheimer’s so that it can no longer extend its pernicious tentacles over us or the generations to come.

Related Posts

  1. Benefits of Exercise and your Life Expectancy
  2. Reduce Risk of Cancer Death with Exercise
  3. Natural Antioxidant Slows Oxidation of Frying Oils, Study Suggests
  4. Reishi Mushroom Slows Prostate Cancer Growth, Study Shows
  5. Study Shows Daily Exercise Can Prevent Colds
  


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