Evidence For Enhanced Neuroplasticity Induced By Exercise In Animals
Brain neuroplasticity is a fundamental mechanism for learning, memory, and general cognition. A voluminous literature in rats and mice has documented multiple mechanisms by which exercise may facilitate such neuroplasticity. Thus, exercise has been shown to increase expression of synaptic plasticity genes, gene products such as synapsin I and synaptophysin,, and various neuroplasticity-related transcription factors such as cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element binding and intracellular kinases.,, Hippocampal dendritic length and dendritic spine complexity are enhanced with exercise., Neurogenesis within the hippocampal dentate gyrus is also induced by exercise.,- Finally, long-term potentiation, which is thought to be a primary neurophysiologic substrate in learning, is potentiated by exercise,,, although this effect was confined to male animals in one study.
Why Exercise Is Effective
Why exercise appears to work may have to do with the benefits of exercise to cardiovascular health.
Theres some evidence to suggest that healthy blood pressure and good cardiovascular health are really beneficial to the brain, Rebecca Edelmayer, PhD, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimers Association, told Healthline.
She said that may have to do with decreasing the decline in performance of small blood vessels to the brain and increasing how effectively oxygen is pumped through the body.
Baker noted that exercise could fight dementia by increasing the number of synapse connections, improving cell walls to allow for better exchange of nutrients, and improving vascular health.
So, basically cleaning out the pipes so the blood can get to the tissue that its supposed to supply, she said.
The Best Exercise For People With Alzheimers Disease
There is little doubt that regular exercise improves health. It helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar levels, decrease waist circumference, improve fitness, maintain weight, improve mood, and decrease anxiety.1-4 These benefits are especially important for individuals with Alzheimers disease who often have comorbid chronic diseases and changes to mood. In addition, regular exercise can aid in slowing the progressive cognitive decline of individuals with Alzheimers disease.5 Individuals with Alzheimers disease or their caretakers may wonder if regular exercise is safe and what exercises should be done. So, what kinds of exercise should individuals with Alzheimers disease be doing?
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Fish Helps You Think And Keeps Your Thinking Strong
What did the researchers find? Fish was the single most important dietary factor in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment. Vegetables were second best, and all other foods showed smaller, insignificant effects. Moreover, of all the foods evaluated, only fish was associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. Eating fish lowered the risk of both cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.
Pillar #: Stress Management
Chronic or persistent stress can take a heavy toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area, hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing the risk of Alzheimers disease and dementia. Yet simple stress management tools can minimize its harmful effects and protect your brain.
Breathe! Quiet your stress response with deep, abdominal breathing. Restorative breathing is powerful, simple, and free!
Schedule daily relaxation activities. Keeping stress under control requires regular effort. Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga can help you unwind and reverse the damaging effects of stress.
Nourish inner peace. Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
Make fun a priority. All work and no play is not good for your stress levels or your brain. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress.
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Benefiting From Brain Aerobics
Neurologists report that mental exercise can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimers disease by up to 70%. With numbers like that, its amazing that everyone isnt exercising their brains more often. Get a head start by spending at least 20 minutes, three times a week doing mental exercises.
Dont know what brain aerobics are? Its simple. Whenever you challenge your brain with novel tasks , youre exercising your brain and improving brain function. In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, three conditions must be met. The activity needs to:
- Engage your attention.
- Involve more than one of your senses.
- Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.
Some examples of fantastic, brain-building mental exercises include reading, writing, playing board games, and doing crossword puzzles.
JAMA. 2009 Aug 12 302:627-37. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.1144.Physical activity, diet, and risk of Alzheimer disease.Scarmeas N, Luchsinger JA, Schupf N, Brickman AM, Cosentino S, Tang MX, Stern Y.
BMC Neurol. 2010 Feb 17 10:14. doi: 10.1186/1471-2377-10-14.Promotion of the mind through exercise : a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial of aerobicexercise training in older adults with vascular cognitive impairment.Liu-Ambrose T, Eng JJ, Boyd LA, Jacova C, Davis JC, Bryan S, Lee P, Brasher P, Hsiung GY.
Plausibility From Animal Studies
The studies in humans suggest that exercise may improve cognition in the short term, reduce risks of dementia or MCI in the long term, and reduce the age-associated progressive loss of brain volume. This issue lends itself to assessment in animal models, in which it is also possible to study putative biological mechanisms.
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Pillar #: Vascular Health
Theres more and more evidence to indicate that whats good for your heart is also good for your brain. Maintaining your cardiovascular health can be crucial in protecting your brain and lowering your risk for different types of dementia, including Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia. And of course, addressing heart-health issues can also help you to lower your risk for a future heart attack or stroke.
Keep On Top Of Your Health
Depression, hearing loss and even low levels of sleep have all been linked to a greater incidence of dementia , so getting control of these as they occur can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life. Blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are also important to maintain at a healthy level as you get older. Regularly having check ups as you get older can also help spot any issues as soon as they present, often improving the outcome, even in dementia.
If you think that mum, dad or a close elderly relative is showing early signs of dementia it is definitely worth exploring a lasting power of attorney sooner rather than later.
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New Study Suggests That Exercise May Not Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimers
While previous studies have shown that regular exercise can slow the progression of Alzheimers, human trials have been too small or too short to understand the implications of exercise on brain health.
A new study from the UK involving nearly 500 participants examined the effects of exercise on dementia. The average age of participants was 77 years old and all participants had mild to moderate dementia symptoms. The researchers randomly assigned 329 people with dementia to complete four months of supervised aerobic and strength training workouts. The group attended group workouts in a gym for an hour or an hour and a half two times a week. They also completed exercises at home for an additional hour each week. Researchers also had a control group of 165 people with dementia to continue usual care with no additional physical activity.
One year later, the exercise group showed slightly worse cognitive function than the control group. Researchers caution that the difference may be too small to be significant but there was no improvement in the exercise group even if it wasnt made worse by a statistically significant margin.
Lead Study Author, Sarah Lamb, of the University of Oxford, says, High-intensity exercise is unlikely to cure or reduce the symptoms of dementia.
Reducing Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
- keeping alcohol to a minimum
- eating a healthy, balanced diet, including at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
- exercising for at least 150 minutes every week by doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity , or as much as you’re able to
- making sure your blood pressure is checked and controlled through regular health tests
- if you have diabetes, make sure you keep to the diet and take your medicine
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The Right Kind Of Exercise May Boost Memory And Lower Dementia Risk
Being physically fit may sharpen the memory and lower our risk of dementia, even if we do not start exercising until we are older.
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Being physically fit may sharpen the memory and lower our risk of dementia, even if we do not start exercising until we are middle-aged or older, according to two stirring new studies of the interplay between exercise, aging, aerobic fitness and forgetting. But both studies, while underscoring the importance of activity for brain health, also suggest that some types of exercise may be better than others at safeguarding and even enhancing our memory.
The scientific evidence linking exercise, fitness and brain health is already hefty and growing. Multiple studies have found that people with relatively high levels of endurance, whatever their age, tend to perform better on tests of thinking and memory than people who are out of shape. Other studies associate better fitness with less risk for developing Alzheimers disease.
But many of these studies have been one-time snapshots of peoples lives and did not delve into whether and how changing fitness over time might alter peoples memory skills or dementia risk. They did not, in other words, tell us whether, by midlife or retirement age, it might be too late to improve our brain health with exercise.
Functional Mri Cognitive Networks In Healthy Seniors
Functional brain MRI during cognitive tasks has also documented significantly improved cognitive networks with exercise or fitness. In one 6-month RCT among seniors, aerobic exercise translated into significantly improved cortical connectivity and activation, compared with controls. In a 12-month RCT, aerobic exercise likewise improved cognitive fMRI network connectivity however, the control group undergoing nonaerobic stretching and toning also had improved fMRI outcomes.
In cross-sectional analyses, physically fit seniors had fMRI evidence of significantly better cortical connectivity and activation during cognitive tasks than unfit seniors ., Physically fit seniors also performed significantly better on cognitive tasks than unfit seniors in these cross-sectional studies.,,
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How To Potentially Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimers
Misplacing your keys or not remembering where you’ve parked your car are common memory lapses. Forgetting things occasionally is a part of life. In fact, these memory slips often become more commonplace as we age.
But if forgetfulness becomes progressive, it can stunt the ability to carry out daily activities. What is an example of a progressive memory slip? For instance, discovering that your misplaced keys werent still in the lock, but were actually in the refrigerator. Or, in very serious and extreme cases, not even realizing what the purpose of a key is.
These kinds of progressive memory lapses can signify cognitive decline and potentially even the onset of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition in which the progressive death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. At present, physicians know no way of stopping or curing it. However, much can be done to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the first place.
Attenuation Of Vascular Contributions To Neurodegenerative Dementia By Exercise
There is a striking overlap of the risk factors for AD and vascular dementia. Glucose intolerance and diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity contribute to not only vascular dementia but also to the risk of neurodegenerative dementia. Intuitively, the influence of these vascular factors may be indirect via superimposed small vessel disease . The added burden of cerebrovascular brain damage may simply superimpose on neurodegeneration. However, a more direct effect of these vascular risk factors on neurodegenerative processes is plausible. Regardless, long-term exercise is well known to attenuate each of these risk factors.-
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Healthhere’s A Formula For Fighting Alzheimer’s
Their fitness in middle age predicted their later risk of developing dementia, the team reported in the journal Neurology.
Those who could not even finish the test had a 45 percent chance of being diagnosed with dementia decades later. Those considered highly fit had just a 5 percent risk. Women of medium fitness had a 25 percent risk.
What is good for the heart really does seem to be good for the brain also, Nicole Spartano, who conducts similar research at Boston University, wrote in an editorial.
You dont need to be a marathoner to achieve the highest level of fitness described in this study, Spartano told NBC News. I would go so far to say that is very possible for even completely sedentary women to achieve this high fitness level.
The low group only could get as high as 80 watts in a challenge test. The best they can do is only what most people could do in the early parts of a warmup, Baker said. These people are just really out of shape.
The fittest women could do 120 watts or more, which is what people put out at the start of a normal workout, Baker said. If you can talk very easily, not really sweating thats 80-120 watts, she said. A watt measures the power created during an activity.
Above 120 watts would not be the highly trained athlete by any means. It is your everyday exerciser.
Can Exercise Reduce Alzheimers Risk
Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.
Exercise may help to keep the brain robust in people who have an increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease, according to an inspiring new study. The findings suggests that even moderate amounts of physical activity may help to slow the progression of one of the most dreaded diseases of aging.
For the new study, which was , researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio recruited almost 100 older men and women, aged 65 to 89, many of whom had a family history of Alzheimers disease.
Alzheimers disease, characterized by a gradual and then quickening loss of memory and cognitive functioning, can strike anyone. But scientists have discovered in recent years that people who harbor a specific variant of a gene, known as the APOE epsilon4 allele or the e4 gene for short, have a substantially increased risk of developing the disease.
Genetic testing among the volunteers in the new study determined that about half of the group carried the e4 gene, although, at the start of the study, none showed signs of memory loss beyond what would be normal for their age.
Then the scientists set out to more closely examine their volunteers brains.
But that study looked at the function, not the structure of the brain. Could exercise also be affecting the physical shape of the brain, the researchers wondered, particularly in people with the e4 gene?
And if exercise reduces that risk in any way, Dr. Rao said, then why not get up and move?
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What Are Risk Factors
A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some risk factors can be controlled while others cannot. For example, a person is not able to control their age, which is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimers and related dementias. Another uncontrollable risk factor is a persons genes. Genes are structures in our bodys cells that are passed down from a persons birth parents. Changes in genes even small changes can cause diseases.
Race and gender are also factors that influence risk. Research shows that African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of dementia, and that risk factors may differ for women and men. Researchers are investigating whats behind these differences.
However, people do have control over their behavior and lifestyle, which can influence their risk for certain diseases. For example, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Lowering blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication can help reduce a persons risk for heart disease and heart attack.
For Alzheimers and related dementias, no behavior or lifestyle factors have risen to the level of researchers being able to say: This will definitely prevent these diseases. But there are promising avenues.
What Happens To The Brain
All sensations, movements, thoughts, memories, and feelings we experience stem from electrical signals that pass through billions of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.
Neurons constantly communicate with each other through these electrical charges. And because they consume high amounts of energy, they also release a lot of waste that consists mostly of leftover proteins.
Usually, other cells in the brain, such as astrocytes and microglia, are responsible for clearing away the waste and helping in keeping neurons healthy. However, when it comes to a brain with Alzheimer’s, harmful changes in the brain destroy the ability of astrocytes and microglia to do their job and maintain a healthy environment for the neurons.
These harmful changes are triggered by two of the brain’s proteins: beta-amyloid protein and tau protein. In people with Alzheimer’s, abnormal tau accumulates and eventually forms tangles inside the neurons, referred to as neurofibrillary tangles. Additionally, the beta-amyloid clumps into plaque buildup between the neurons, which are commonly known as amyloid plaques. As the level of beta-amyloid increases, it causes a rapid spread of tau throughout the brain. This results in neurons gradually losing their ability to communicate.
As neurons begin to die, the brain begins to shrink, starting with the hippocampus, a vital part of the brain for learning and memory. That shrinkage causes memory loss, impaired decision-making, and language problems.
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