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article imageStudy: Alzheimer's Risk Greater with Weaker Muscles

By Chris Dade     Nov 10, 2009 in Health
A study conducted by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has revealed that people who are physically stronger stand a better chance of avoiding Alzheimer's disease than those who are physically weak.
The study involved 970 adults, whose average age was close to 80, and who had either not developed Alzheimer's disease, named after German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer, or had a slight mental impairment.
And it showed that the strongest amongst the 970 participants had a 61 percent lower chance of developing the disease, which, although different for each individual sufferer, is associated with ever increasing memory loss and an ever decreasing clarity of thought. Impaired gait, depression and a weakened grip are other signs of the disease.
As U.S. News & World Report notes an individual's muscle strength was also found to be linked to their chances of developing mild cognitive impairment, which precedes the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The leader of the study was Dr Patricia Boyle and she is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying:Overall, these data show that greater muscle strength is associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment
Dr Boyle identified what it is thought may be a key factor in firstly a deterioration in muscle strength, leading on to problems with cognition.
That factor is damage to the mitochondria, the so-called "cellular power plants" that generate energy for the body. Another possibility is that a stroke, or some other form of central nervous system disorder, could be responsible for triggering Alzheimer's disease in a person.
Published in the monthly medical journal Archives of Neurology the study rated each of its participants' mental function and tested 11 muscle groups to ascertain their level of physical strength, with the scores from the physical strength tests in a range from -1.6 to 3.3.
Any unit increase in physical strength occurring during the period of the study meant that the person concerned was reducing by 43 percent their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The reduced risk factor of 61 percent was calculated by comparing those in the top 10 per cent of muscle strength scores with those in the bottom 10 percent.
Confirming that over an average period of 3.6 years those taking part in the study received at least one further evaluation, the Daily Mail reports that 138 participants, or 14.2 percent, eventually developed Alzheimer's, a disease that is said to currently affect in excess of 35 million people worldwide.
Head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, a U.K.-based care and research charity which aims to "improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland", is Dr Susanne Sorensen and she said of the results of the U.S. study:In Alzheimer’s disease, changes in the brain begin many years before a person begins to develop symptoms of dementia. This study provides a statistical link between weak muscles and increased risk of dementia. Observation of increasing muscle weakness may serve as one of the indicators that could alert GPs to the need for a cognitive assessment
U.S.News & World Report highlighted some of the additional benefits older people, and indeed younger and middle-aged people, might derive from strength training. Those possible benefits include fighting off osteoporosis, sarcopenia, diabetes and heart disease.
It explains too how other studies have indicated that "exercise specifically helps people with executive functioning (things like planning ahead), short-term memory, and focusing and maintaining attention".
More about Alzheimers Disease, United States, Study
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