Studies conducted into Alzheimer’s disease has shown that regular cardiovascular exercise can be a great tool to help protect the brain and possibly delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Activities such as running can offer an effective method of slowing down the progression of the disease.
Geno Mayers, from Grass Valley, California, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease when he was aged 62. The devastating effects of the disease meant that he could no longer remember things, and has had to rely even more on his wife for support since his diagnosis. However, now aged 67, Geno regularly hits the pavement and has not lost his desire for running regularly.
Each day Geno asks his wife, “Do we have a race today?” such is his enthusiasm for running. Even though Geno is no longer able to run on his own since he got himself lost ten miles away from home in 2014, his running still helps to give him a mental boost.
Geno’s wife, Cathy Anderson-Meyers, stated that he would occasionally become depressed, but by encouraging him to go out for a run with her really helps to lift his depression and gets him outside, which really cheers him up.
Interestingly, according to Alzheimer’s researchers, people like Geno Mayers can benefit greatly from regular cardiovascular exercise such as running because it may help to enhance mood. For sufferers of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, exercise may also help to improve brain functions that are used for every day living.
For those who are at a high risk of developing the disease, regular exercise may be able to help even more. More research has shown that performing cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis can actually protect the brain, and possibly slow down the onset of the disease. This can only help to improve memory and cognition and improve the quality of life.
In a study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July, by Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, results suggest exercise may be able to do what drugs so far cannot in those at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s dementia, and that is to slow down the progression of the disease.
For her study, Professor Baker looked at people with mild cognitive impairment with memory loss, which means that they have a high likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. Although there is no definitive test to diagnose a person for the disease, Professor Baker’s subjects most likely had it by the time she studied them.
After a six month period, her study showed that participants who built up to exercising at an elevated heart rate (specific to each person) for 30 minutes, four times a week, improved their cognition and had decreased levels of phosphorylated tau protein, compared to those in a control group who only performed regular stretching exercises.
Scientists use tau protein levels as a measure of how Alzheimer’s disease is progressing. As people age the protein naturally increases, but those who suffer with Alzheimer’s, a much higher level than normal is detected. The participants who took part in regular cardiovascular exercise during the study showed a slight decrease in their levels of the protein after six months, giving a much better effect than any approved drug currently being offered.
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