Physical fitness linked to lower Alzheimer's risk

Muscle Head

Six-pack abs? Sure – that’s a fine goal for young people who work hard to keep their bodies in top physical shape.

But when you’re past retirement age, what you really want is a six-pack hippocampus.

Brain-healthy lifestyle

Your memory is stored in your hippocampus. So it’s no surprise that the hippocampus is the primary area of the brain that deteriorates in Alzheimer’s patients.

Last month, at the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Chicago, University of Kansas Medical Center researchers presented the first ever study to use MRI brain imaging to reveal the effects of cardiorespiratory fitness on Alzheimer’s-related brain volume changes.

The UK team recruited 63 subjects with AD, and 56 subjects with no signs of dementia. All subjects were over the age of 60. Each subject was given an MRI brain scan, and each was tested on a treadmill to assess peak oxygen consumption.

Results showed a clear and significant link between physical fitness and greater volume of the hippocampus. Subjects with poor fitness levels had more hippocampal atrophy.

Another study presented at the July conference showed that regular home-based exercise in dementia patients resulted in improved balance, reduced falls, and higher quality of life.

In an Alzheimer’s Association press release, AA vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations, William Thies, Ph.D., noted that these studies stress the need for a “brain- healthy lifestyle.” And he added: “Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or require a major time commitment.”

Brain-healthy nourishment

If you’ve already got a regular exercise routine going, then you can further improve your defense against Alzheimer’s and dementia with several key nutrients.

A 2002 Canadian study found that Alzheimer’s patients and elderly patients with various types of dementia all had lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid) than subjects with normal cognitive function.

In 2005, USDA researchers monitored blood samples, food intake, and cognitive function in more than 320 older men for three years. Their conclusion: “Low B vitamin and high homocysteine concentrations predict cognitive decline.”

NIACIN (vitamin B3)
In a 2006 study that followed more than 800 subjects over the age of 65 for five years, researchers found that subjects with the highest dietary intake of niacin had an 80 percent reduced risk of cognitive decline compared to those with the lowest niacin intake.

A 2006 Johns Hopkins study showed that those who took a combination of vitamin C and E supplements over a six-year period had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

In a 2007 study that followed more than 4,000 elderly subjects for 18 years, those who took 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day had significantly higher verbal memory scores compared to placebo.

Earlier this year I told you about a new HSI report titled “Stop Memory Loss in its Tracks.” In this free report you’ll find information about an extract of Chinese club moss called huperzine A that has been shown to significantly improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients. This extract may also improve memory in those who have no symptoms of cognitive decline.

“New Research Shows that People with Better Physical Fitness Have Less Brain Atrophy” Alzheimer’s Association, 7/27/08,