It’s not too late to protect your brain from dementia 7



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In the quest to better understand the effects of ageing on the brain and the causes of brain impairment, scientists have looked at diet, lifestyle and genetic factors. But they keep coming back to one thing – and the good news is it’s something we can all aim for.

A study of the brains of mice shows that structural deterioration associated with old age can be prevented by long-term aerobic exercise starting in mid-life.

Gareth Howell, Ileana Soto and their colleagues at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, found that structural changes that make the blood–brain barrier leaky and result in inflammation of brain tissues in old mice can be mitigated by getting the animals to run regularly.

This is one of numerous explorations of  how and why exercise helps prevent dementia in humans.

Another study published this month shows that people who exercise regularly have longer telomeres, the tiny caps found on the end of DNA strands. These are believed to protect the DNA from damage during cell division and replication.

Physical activity is already known to slow cognitive decline in humans as well as in mice. To investigate the impact of long-term physical exercise on the brain changes seen in the ageing mice, the researchers provided the animals with a running wheel from 12 months old (equivalent to middle aged in humans) and assessed their brains at 18 months when the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is greatly increased.

Young and old mice alike ran about two miles per night, and this physical activity improved the ability and motivation of the older mice to engage in the typical spontaneous behaviours that seem to be affected by ageing.

The researchers concluded that a long-term exercise program is capable of preventing brain deterioration associated with old age.

Dr Howell says, “In this day and age, with so many distractions and conveniences, it is easy to fall into a lifestyle that does not include enough exercise. With an aging population, I hope our study helps in encouraging a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise.”

He adds, “For those that are unfortunately unable to exercise, our study provides insight into a possible mechanism by which exercise may benefit the ageing brain and may one day lead to improved treatments for age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.”

Do you have an exercise program? Could you step it up a little to protect your brain?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I walk 4 k 3-5 times a week with a 10 kilo pack. Takes me an hour usually and that includes hills. I then do 30 squats and 30 push ups off a wall. I hope that is enough.

  2. really!!!!! – I honestly think this sort of stories is a load of rubbish concerning how not to get dementia. It is all presumption — and presumption is the mother of all sin. If you are going to get dementia — then no amount of exercise – whether it be with your mind or body — will stop this terrible disease attacking your brain. They may find a cause and treatment for it in time but lets be honest we all know too many people who exercise their body and mind who hope never to get it yet do as they age.

  3. Stress is the biggest problem, stop stressing about what could happen and it probably wont, in other words “is you glass half empty or half full”

  4. For all of us who “unfortunately ” are unable to exercise….take heart…my mother lived until she was 93 years old and for the previous 20 years was disabled due to osteoarthritis. Her generation would think us mad worryingly about not going to the gym or whatever the latest so called exercise craze was! Her brain was sharp and never missed a trick! Now her ageing children are benefiting from our genetic inheritance!

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