The way you take care of your general health changes as you get older. But unlike cardiovascular problems or diabetes, a plan of action can be less clear when it comes to reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to dismiss: The neurodegenerative disease is responsible for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. But, according to one study, doing one thing for just 10 minutes twice a week can go a long way in lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Read on to see how you can easily improve your brain health.
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The latest findings come from a study published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy in November. A team of researchers from Yonsei University College of Medicine in South Korea analyzed the medical records of 247,149 participants who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) between 2005 and 2009 and who had a mean age of 64 to 69 years to test the likelihood of having the patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that people diagnosed with MCI were ten times more likely to develop degenerative neurological disease than the general population.
Participants were then followed up twice over the course of the study, including a questionnaire asking how much they had exercised in the previous week. The results showed that participants who did moderate to vigorous exercise for 10 minutes or more twice a week were 18 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who did not exercise.
While the risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease was significantly reduced by the two short sweating sessions, more training led to even better results. The data showed that those who exercised 10 minutes three to five times a week were even less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (15 percent) than those who exercised less every seven days.
The results also showed that patients who later started their exercise habit still saw benefits. Participants who started exercising after their MCI diagnosis saw an 11 percent decrease in disease risk. On the other hand, those who stopped exercising after their diagnosis lived up to expectations and developed Alzheimer’s disease just as quickly as participants who had not exercised before.
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The team eventually concluded that regular exercise could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease by helping to increase the production of molecules that help neurons grow and survive, as well as increasing blood flow to the brain. This likely prevents the decrease in brain volume that is often associated with dementia.
“Our results suggest that regular physical activity can protect against the transformation of mild cognitive impairment into Alzheimer’s disease.” Hanna Cho, MD, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We suggest that patients with mild cognitive impairment should be advised to exercise regularly. Even if a person with mild cognitive impairment did not exercise regularly prior to their diagnosis, our results suggest that regular exercise after diagnosis could significantly lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. “Disease.”
Other recent studies have also shown that exercise can help keep diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease at bay. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) tried to better understand how blood flow to the brain can affect the occurrence of dementia by collecting 70 participants, ages 55 to 80 who were diagnosed with memory loss, and randomizing them in two groups. The team then instructed one group of participants to do 30 to 40 minutes of stretching three to five times a week, while the other group would take brisk walks three to five times a week for the same length of time.
After a year, MRIs showed that those in the group prescribed aerobic exercise had increased blood flow to their brains and that the blood vessels in their necks were less stiff. The participants in the stretching group did not show the same results.
“There is still much that we do not know about the effects of exercise on cognitive decline later in life.” C. Munro Cullum, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UTSW and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “MCI [mild cognitive impairment] and dementia are likely to be influenced by a complex interplay of many factors, and we believe that exercise is one of those factors, at least for some people. “
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