Keeping Active to Slow Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's related changes in the brain were slowed down when people were more active

(RxWiki News) An active lifestyle can keep you healthy. Staying active may also slow the loss of brain tissue that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A recent study presented at conference found that the more calories elderly people burned doing physical activities, like yard work, the fewer brain cells they lost.

The loss of brain tissue was less in areas known to be important for learning and memory – like the hippocampus and basal ganglia.

However, the direction of cause is unknown. Are people more active because they have less brain damage? Or do people have less brain damage because they are more active?

"Ask a doctor about which activities are best."

Researchers, led by Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, of the University of California in Los Angeles, enrolled 876 adults who were an average of 78 years old. Some of the people had normal mental skills, some had AD and some had mild cognitive impairment.

All the people in the study were part of the Cardiovascular Health Study which has tracked people for 20 years – getting lifestyle and body weight info. They used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the amount of grey matter, a certain type of brain cell. In AD, grey matter is lost over time.

They also looked at the types of physical exercise people were getting.  Exercises included gardening, yard work, using workout equipment, dancing and bicycling. The researchers estimated how much energy people were spending in the form of exercise and compared it to the amount of grey matter in their brain.

This study was presented November 25 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

Research presented at academic conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 25, 2012