Alzheimer's risk goes down when you get up off the couch

Energizer Brain

How committed are you to preventing Alzheimer’s disease as you age? Do you want the whole prevention package, or just the partial prevention package?

Your call.

Brain-healthy lifestyle

As we’ve seen in past e-Alerts, nutrition choices may play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease prevention. Now evidence shows that exercise is also part of the AD- prevention picture.

A study from the University of Kansas Medical Center is the first research 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 (the area of your brain that stores memory and deteriorates with onset of Alzheimer’s). Subjects with poor fitness levels showed more pronounced signs of hippocampal atrophy.

Another study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 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 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.

OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
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.

VITAMIN B COMPLEX
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.

VITAMINS C AND E
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.

BETA-CAROTENE
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.

Sources:

“New Research Shows that People with Better Physical Fitness Have Less Brain Atrophy” Alzheimer’s Association, 7/27/08, alz.org
“Study: Rapid Rise Seen in Fatal Medication Errors at Home” Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press, 7/28/08, ap.org