Power walk a day keeps Alzheimer’s at bay: Study finds daily brisk stroll or bike ride in old age can reduce inflammation in the brain and cut dementia risk

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  • Researchers from the University of California studied 167 elderly people every year
  • Found physical activity reduces inflammation in brain, prevents deterioration
  • Doctors recommend that adults get at least 150 moderate exercises weekly.

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A study has claimed that daily power walks or bike rides can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in old age.

Research has long shown that exercise in middle age and beyond can reduce the likelihood of dementia—which is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s—by 40 percent.

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Now researchers from the University of California say that the disease can be avoided if people exercise in later life as well.

It is believed that exercise helps ward off disease because it improves cognitive function, keeps body weight down and prevents plaque buildup in the arteries – a major cause of vascular dementia.

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But the latest study also suggests that exercise in later life may reduce inflammation in the brain, which can lead to Alzheimer’s developing.

Researchers studied 167 people with an average age of 90 at the age of death.

Those who exercised regularly had lower levels of microglia — a cell that can cause inflammation — activation in their brains.

The scientists said this helped reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s significantly.

Doctors recommend that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.

A University of California study claims that daily walking may help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease were the biggest killers in England in October, according to Office for National Statistics data released yesterday

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the biggest killers in England in October, according to Office for National Statistics data released yesterday

According to a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine, global dementia cases will nearly triple from 57.4 million to 152.8 million by 2050.  But the rate of progression of the disease is different in different parts of the world.  In Western Europe, cases are expected to increase by only 75 percent, mainly due to increasing age, while in North America they are expected to double.  The biggest increase is expected to be seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where cases are expected to rise by 375 percent.

According to a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine, global dementia cases will nearly triple from 57.4 million to 152.8 million by 2050. But the rate of progression of the disease is different in different parts of the world. In Western Europe, cases are expected to increase by only 75 percent, mainly due to increasing age, while in North America they are expected to double. The biggest increase is expected to be seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where cases are expected to rise by 375 percent.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain in which nerve cells die from a buildup of abnormal proteins.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.

It affects around 920,000 people in the UK – this figure will rise to 2 million by 2050.

what happens?

As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.

This includes memory, orientation, and the ability to think and reason.

The progression of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live as long as ten to 15 years.

Initial symptoms:

  • loss of short term memory
  • disorientation
  • behavior change
  • mood swings
  • Difficulties with money transactions or making phone calls

Later symptoms:

  • severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • becoming anxious and frustrated at an inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • eventually lose the ability to walk
  • may have trouble eating
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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California study, published in Journal of Neuroscience, found that exercise had the greatest benefit for those who were more likely to develop dementia.

The researchers tracked adults since 1997 to examine the relationship between physical activity and microglia activation.

Lead author Dr Caitlin Casaleto, from the University of California, San Francisco, said: ‘Microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells, are activated to clear debris and foreign invaders from the brain.

‘But too much activation can trigger inflammation, damage neurons and disrupt brain signalling.

‘Exercise helps reduce abnormal hyperactivity in animals – but that link was not established in humans.’

Participants were from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which enrolls volunteers without dementia who agree to organ donation.

About two-thirds (60 percent) had developed Alzheimer’s disease by the time of their death.

Participants wore a 24-hour activity monitor for ten days immediately before the annual cognitive exam.

Researchers measured microglia activation and Alzheimer’s disease in brain tissue after the participants died.

Casaleto said: ‘More physical activity was associated with less microglial activation.

‘This was particularly in the inferior temporal gyrus – a brain region most affected by Alzheimer’s.

‘Physical activity had a more pronounced effect on inflammation in people with more severe Alzheimer’s pathology.’

The study did not specify how long the participants exercised or how much exercise reduced their chances of Alzheimer’s disease.

Casaleto next plans to investigate whether exercise intervention can alter microglia activation in Alzheimer’s patients.

She said: ‘Physical activity is related to better cognitive aging and a lower risk of neurodegenerative disease.

‘Yet the cellular and molecular pathways linking the brain to behavior in humans are unknown.

‘We objectively monitored physical activity and cognitive performances in life and quantified microglial activation and synaptic markers in brain tissue at the time of death in older adults.

‘These are the first data to support microglial activation as a physiological pathway by which physical activity is related to brain health in humans.

‘Although more interventional work is needed, we suggest that physical activity may be a modifiable behavior to reduce pro-inflammatory microglial states in humans.’

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around 920,000 people in the UK – this figure will rise to 2 million by 2050.

It remains the biggest killer in the UK, accounting for 102 deaths per 100,000 last month, doubling…

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