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This One Activity Will Cut Alzheimers

Can one simple activity reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease? Read on to see how exercising can improve memory and heal brain degeneration.
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Did you know that one simple health change can reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or another degenerative cognitive disease by up to 60 percent? This small change is completely free, and requires minimal effort. If there was a way to protect your memory easily and painlessly, wouldn’t you want to try it?

Luckily, you can. Studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can lead to a reduction in Alzheimer’s risk by up to 60 percent, and can even reverse existing brain deterioration.

Alzheimer’s Disease in Today’s World

Alzheimer's is currently the number one cognitive degenerative disease in the world today. According to Web MD, Alzheimer’s affects about 1 in 10 people over the age of 65. Currently, around 4.5 million Americans have some form of the disease.

Over the last several decades, much research has been conducted surrounding this frightening and prevalent disease. While there are many potential factors for a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s: including genetics, lack of brain use, environmental toxins, head trauma, and Down’s Syndrome, there is no one identifiable cause or risk factor for the disease. Currently, there is no test to determine a person’s risk for the disease, although recent research has indicated that early signs of loss of smell may lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease. Researchers from the University of Florida came up with a simple peanut butter test for identifying early stages of the disease in late 2013.

Although there are few studies that can predict if you will get the disease, there are plenty of studies backing evidence that you can significantly lower your risk by keeping the brain active. Many studies have shown a link between exercise and a reduction in Alzheimer’s risk. In fact, frequent exercise may be the best way to ensure you never have to worry about memory loss problems.

The Link between Alzheimer’s Disease and Exercise

Can you really slow cognitive generation with exercise? Many years of research has proven that you can. In 1999, scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla conducted a study on mice. When mice were given access to running wheels, they showed greater cell growth in the area of the brain that controls memory creation. These mice performed better on memory tests than sedentary mice.

A similar study conducted by the Psychobiology and Exercise Research Center in Brazil from 2012 showed linked results. In this study, the researchers assigned two types of exercise for two groups of mice. One group engaged in weight-lifting activities, while others engaged in cardio activities. After 6 weeks, all exercising mice showed improved cognitive function. However, the study also found surprising results based on the kind of exercise that the mice did. Running mice had an increased level of BDNF protein, which helps create new brain cells. The weight lifting mice showed increased levels of insulin-like growth factor, which helps cell growth and keeps fragile new neurons alive. This study indicates that the brain benefits from both strength and cardio training.

Studies Prove Alzheimer’s Risk Lowered through Exercise

Clearly exercise is beneficial for the brain and is able to keep healthy people’s memory functioning effectively and efficiently. But do studies show that exercise can actually repair degenerative brain tissue and improve memory after deterioration? According to these studies, it can.

A study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and published in the 2013 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed that exercise can reverse some degenerative brain effects. The study was led by Dr. J. Carson Smith, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology. The study indicated that exercise intervention for adults with an average age of 78 can improve memory recall and brain function measured by functional neuroimaging.

The study studied previously inactive seniors for a period of 12 weeks. The participants were placed on an exercise program with mild intensity for 150 minutes per week. Half of the participants were diagnosed with mild cognitive decline, while the others had normal cognitive function. Before and after the exercise program participants were given a face recognition test of famous celebrities. After the 12 week exercise program, all participants showed a reduction in brain activity when recalling names. This indicates that exercise makes it possible for the brain to recall information with less effort.

A 2012 study published in the American Heart Association journal “Stroke,” indicated that healthy adults engaging in regular exercise decrease their risk of facing dementia by 40 percent and improve their cognitive function by 60 percent. This study researched 639 people of various ages, genders, and genetic backgrounds for a period of 3 years. 64 percent of the participants were active 30 minutes a day at least 3 times a week. Results from this study showed that exercise can indeed improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh studied 120 inactive adults over the age of 65. Some adults reported mild memory lapses, while others were cognitively healthy. Each person was assigned a yearlong exercise program with either a toning routine or a moderate-intensity walking program. After one year, the walking group showed increase in the brain region that processes memory, as well as improved memory overall.

Another study conducted by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 2012, studied women ages 70 to 80 diagnosed with minor cognitive impairment (MCI). The women were broken into three groups and assigned an exercise type- either strength training, aerobic training, or balance and tone training. Participants exercised 2 times a week over 6 months. At the end of the study, women who were involved with strength training showed the most improvement. They have improved memory function and conflict resolution. The aerobic group improved in memory function only.

Reducing Your Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

So if exercise can help the elderly and mice improve their memories, it should also work on other levels. Clearly, there is a link between cognitive function and exercise, and studies show that exercise is one of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive degenerative disorders. A 2012 study from The Mayo Clinic showed that while exercise can improve cognitive function in the elderly by 32 percent, starting a similar exercise program by middle age can improve cognitive function by 39 percent. This indicates that exercise throughout life is key to reducing the chances of getting Alzheimer’s.

What will exercise do for your brain?

Exercise helps your brain in multiple ways. According to The Mayo Clinic, exercise can help your brain in the following ways:

  • Increased brain size: It’s true; exercise actually can make your brain bigger. Exercise preserves gray matter and prevents brain deterioration due to aging. Moderate exercise for at least a year can increase the size of the hippocampus, which progressively deteriorates in Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Improved brain connections: With exercise, brain-derived neurotrophic levels rise. With Alzheimer’s, these levels drop. 
  • Better blood vessel health: Over time, brain arteries narrow and close. Restricting blood flow to the brain is one cause of Alzheimer’s. Exercise and fitness helps keep these vital blood vessels open and prevents clogging, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. 

Exercise is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to preserve brain health outside of diet. The medical industry has long touted the healthy benefits of exercising and eating right, but few people follow the recommendations to their detriment. Lack of exercise can lead to many other health issues including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

The best exercises for cognitive function

Results from the above studies show that all exercise has benefit to the brain. However, there are certain exercises that show more benefit than others. In the above studies, participants who showed the biggest brain improvement engaged in moderate exercise (such as walking briskly or completing a strength routine) at least 3 times a week. Their exercise totals equaled 150 minutes per week or more.

Strength exercises showed greater brain-boosting power than aerobic exercises. When engaging in strength exercises, participants saw increased memory power and an increase in hippocampus size. All brain functions were improved as a result of strength training. However, a combination of strength and aerobic exercises are best for maintaining overall health.

The Best Exercises to Improve Brain Health
  • Strength training
  • Aerobic activity 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes
  • At least 150 minutes of exercise per week

What exercises you do can vary, but you do not have to push yourself to the limit to achieve these brain-boosting results. None of the participants in the study exercised beyond their ability to speak during the exercises.

Make Exercise Easy with the Right Diet

One of the biggest problems that many Americans face is the fact that exercise is difficult to work into the day. Committing to an exercise routine at the same time each day can help you stick to your exercise goals. Other individuals find that switching between types of exercise keeps things interesting enough to continue. Exercising outside may have additional benefits, as you are exposed to beneficial vitamin D and sunlight, which can boost serotonin levels in the body, fighting depression and low moods.

If you find that you are too tired or lack enough energy to exercise, adding a few extra vitamins or supplements in your diet may help you feel good enough to exercise. Try adding the following vitamins and supplements to your diet to keep you feeling good enough to exercise.

Vitamins and supplements that boost energy levels and fight cognitive decline

  • Healthy fats: Fat is a long-lasting fuel that provides consistent energy over several hours. Fats also contain many of the vitamins that we need on a day-to-day basis to maintain energy and function at top cognitive levels. Healthy fats include Omega-3s, grass-fed butter and cream, raw milk, coconut oil, macadamia nuts, and avocado. 
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is a healthy mineral that is necessary for cognitive function and maintaining proper blood flow to the brain. Getting enough magnesium will not only make exercise easier, it will also slow the constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to Alzheimer’s. 
  • B vitamins: B vitamins provide a wealth of benefits including energy, increased brain function, and overall health. B vitamins that are particularly helpful for maintaining energy levels and increasing brain function are B12, B6, and B9. B12 and B6 are found in many fish products as well as most dairy products. Vitamin B9, folate, is found in dark green vegetables.

Avoid these ingredients to encourage effective brain function

  • Sugar: Sugar is a fast-burning energy, which your body loves. Your body loves sugar because it burns so quickly and gives you a fast energy boost. However, a diet primarily consisting of sugar will continually give your body energy spikes and depressions that are hard on your body’s systems. Keep sugar levels low and counteract any sugar that you eat with more long-lasting nourishment to prevent harmful crashes that will make your energy levels plummet. 
  • Mercury: Mercury is a dangerous substance that never leaves the body. The only way you can protect yourself from mercury poisoning is by keeping it out of your body. Remove any amalgam fillings you have, and avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury. 
  • Aluminum: There is a possible link between aluminum exposure and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Avoid aluminum where possible to reduce any risk from that area. Canned foods, deodorant, non-stick cookware, and even some vaccines contain aluminum.

Other Ways to Improve Brain Power

If you are serious about keeping your mind healthy and functioning properly, there are a few additional steps you can take to improve cognitive function. One simple step is to take to heart the “use it or lose it” mentality.

Do These Things to Lower Your Risk for Alzheimer's
Exercise your brain: Mental stimulation, like learning something new, visiting a new place, or doing something outside the realm of the usual (even as silly as brushing your teeth with your opposite hand) can help you keep your brain sharp and avoid deterioration. Try learning new puzzles, learning a new language, taking a class, or engaging in some other mentally-stimulating activity on a regular basis. Even taking on more activities and responsibilities at work can help improve mental clarity and function.
Avoid brain degenerative drugs: Many drugs and medications interfere with efficient brain function. Medications with the most danger contain block acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Blocking this chemical can increase your risk for cognitive degeneration. Medications that contain this ingredient include some antidepressants, some narcotic pain relievers, and some incontinence medications.
Eat brain-boosting foods: Food has long been linked with improving mental health and the memory. A wide variety of foods can improve brain health, including walnuts, olive oil, berries, fatty fish, avocado, spinach and other leafy greens, beets, chocolate, caffeine, and garlic.

Boost your brain power with exercise and diet

Everyone knows that the key to health is diet and exercise, but fewer people realize just how important the link actually is. Results from these studies and many others showcase just how important an active lifestyle is for maintaining efficient mental health. The key to maintaining restorative brain power is to start as early as possible to protect your brain health. The longer you live a sedentary life, the faster the brain degenerates and leads to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive diseases. With regular exercise and brain-boosting foods and supplements, you can stave off early brain degeneration and even rebuild brain tissue lost from previous bad brain habits. This is encouraging news for individuals in every stage of health.

Sources


http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-disease-overview-facts

http://news.ufl.edu/2013/10/08/alzheimers-test/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22155655

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