Alzheimer's blog

Preventing Alzheimer's: Exercise still best bet

By Angela Lunde March 25, 2008

A report last week from the Alzheimer's Association predicts that 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's disease in the United States — that translates to one out of every eight. For us "baby boomers," this is frightening to say the least.

There are new treatments on the horizon, but we all wonder whether or not they will be available in time for us or even our children. Let's keep hoping for a cure or prevention model by supporting research in whatever way we can. Meanwhile, studies continue to point to physical exercise as the most effective therapy today to prevent Alzheimer's.

Mounting evidence suggests that physical activity may have benefits beyond a healthy heart and body weight. Through the past several years, population studies have suggested that exercise which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times a week can lower your risk of Alzheimer's. Physical activity appears to inhibit Alzheimer's-like brain changes in mice, slowing the development of a key feature of the disease.

In one observational study, investigators looked at the relationship of physical activity and mental function in about 6,000 women age 65 and older, over an 8 year period. They found that the women who were more physically active were less likely to experience a decline in their mental function than inactive women.

Another compelling study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, was highlighted on ABC News last week. The study used mice bred to develop Alzheimer's type plaque in the brain. In the study, some mice were allowed to exercise and others were not. The brains in the physically active mice had 50 to 80 percent less plaque than the brains of the sedentary mice and they (exercising mice) produced significantly more of an enzyme in the brain that prevents plaque.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, said on ABC: "Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer's disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet."

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Mar. 25, 2008