|ALZHEIMER'S AND EXERCISE|
Neurology July 15 2008
According to a preliminary study appearing in the July issue of Neurology, getting a lot of exercise may help slow brain shrinkage in people with early Alzheimer's disease. Analysis found that participants who were more physically fit had less brain shrinkage than less-fit participants. While brains shrink with normal aging, the rate is doubled in people with Alzheimer's.
People with Alzheimer's disease experience a chronic, progressive loss of mental functioning known as dementia, which affects their ability to perform self-care activities such as getting up from a bed or chair, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, walking, and eating.
Alzheimer's disease often becomes progressively worse over a period of decades. Characteristically, short-term memory slowly deteriorates, confusion sets in, and basic functioning is lost. People in the late stage of Alzheimer's disease often need round-the-clock care.
The study included 57 people with early Alzheimer's. Their physical fitness was assessed by measuring their peak oxygen demand while on a treadmill, and brain shrinkage was estimated by MRI scans. Though this was a small study group it's encouraging to see actual physical improvements related to exercise.
Previous studies have shown that exercise can slow mental decline in older people and might prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia; other studies have found that exercise can promote general health, increase mobility, and prevent depression in people with Alzheimer's disease.
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