Get Your Blood Pumping — Exercise Could Fight Off Alzheimer’s

It’s no secret that exercise is great for your heart, but based on new research, remaining active could protect you against neurological decline.

If you have been wondering what you can personally do to reduce your risk, this is a prime example. Research continues to provide us with clues. By implementing key tools and resources, we may be able to reduce future rates of Alzheimer’s.

Study Finds — Exercise May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

The association between exercise and Alzheimer’s has been studied and discussed extensively in the past. Recently, however, the University of British Columbia took their research one step further. Not only did they find that exercise may be key in terms of preventative measures, but it could also enhance quality of life for current Alzheimer’s patients.

This study reviewed data from more than 150 pieces of research in relation to physical activity and Alzheimer’s. It was concluded that regular physical activity can enhance mobility and daily living among elderly Alzheimer’s patients. Also, those who were not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but were physically active, showcased a significantly reduced risk.

At the end of the day, we do not currently have a cure — so any preventative measures or factors that can help manage symptoms, is exciting. Based on their conclusion, exercise is a tool that we can use today. You can begin to take control of your future health based on the decisions you make today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead.

Exercise Stimulates Connectivity

Within a separate study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the researchers were interested in whether or not 12 weeks of aerobic exercise could improve functional connectivity in the posterior cingulate cortex. In order to do so, 16 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and 16 healthy elderly individuals were examined.

While engaging in a 12-week exercise intervention, functional MRI scans were taken at rest. Focusing on the posterior cingulate cortex, researchers were concerned with connectivity in relation to both mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s.

What they found, was that following training, those who MCI increased connectivity within 10 regions of the brain, including the posterior cingulate cortex. Healthy individuals did not show any significant changes. This may signify the connection between exercise, positive health and cognitive reserve.

Of course, the next step is to see whether or not exercise will further delay cognitive decline in patients with MCI. Something which researchers have already shown among a small sample of Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, memory loss in patients was not only reversed, but this improvement was sustained.

The key within this exciting research was:

  • A complex, 36-point program that combined diet changes, exercise, sleep optimization, brain stimulation, specific drugs and vitamins, as well as other key measures.

Maintain a Healthy Heart to Ensure a Healthy Mind

The research up until this point clearly shows a connection between heart-healthy habits and a reduced risk of dementia. Although there are many possible contributing factors, health conditions that could harm your heart may also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Be mindful of:

  • Your blood sugar levels: this is especially true if you’re pre-diabetic or have already developed type 2 diabetes. Considering dementia has been linked to diabetes, it’s imperative that you get your blood sugar under control. In addition, focus on reaching a healthy weight.
  • Your blood pressure: once again, uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease and damage small blood vessels within the brain. Relating back to exercise and diet, nothing is more important in terms of long-term positive health.
  • Your cholesterol: the habits and lifestyle choices that improve your cholesterol, will also help protect your brain. Some suggestions include: consuming more fiber; eating more omega-3 fatty acids; eliminating trans fats from your diet; exercising on most days of the week; not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; and consuming alcohol in moderation.

The key here is taking control before any problematic symptoms surface. In terms of any disease, it’s also best to be proactive, instead of reactive. If you are suffering from high blood pressure, for instance, that is your body’s way of telling you that some changes need to be made.

In order to improve your future health, take immediate action. Considering 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension, and only 54 percent of their blood pressure under control, it’s clear that we can do more. In a way, that’s encouraging — because we’re not currently doing everything we can to reduce rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Meaning, there may be a silver lining — you could potentially improve the outcome of your health, based on the choices you make today.

  • Start moving and get your blood pumping. Begin by walking 30 minutes each and every day, before challenging yourself with strength training exercises.
  • If you suffer from sore joints, swimming is an excellent solution. This is a low-impact activity that will yield significant benefits.
  • Spend more time outdoors, gardening or walking your dog.

Also, be sure to check out this incredible resource from the Alzheimer’s Society.

Remember, in many ways, you are directly in control. Begin to build healthier, sustainable habits that will benefit your body and mind for years to come.

Happy exercising!

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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