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article imageAlzheimer's disease: Brain health linked to physical activity

By Tim Sandle     Jun 29, 2017 in Science
Those considered at risk from Alzheimer's disease, and perform moderate-intensity physical activity, appear more likely to have a glucose metabolism in their brain. Such a pattern is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's development.
The findings stem from a new University of Wisconsin-Madison study, led by Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo. For the study the research team examined the records of 93 members of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention. This scheme has over 1,500 registrants, making it the largest global on-going history of an Alzheimer's risk study group. Each of the 93 subjects was middle-aged and with an identifiable genetic risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Each of the subjects was cognitively healthy, with good brain function.
With the 93 volunteers, the researchers placed devices called accelerometers onto each person. These devices measure the daily physical activity of the wearer. The activity levels were assessed over the course of one week. The researchers noted the amount of time each person engaged in exercise. The exercise levels were classified as: light, moderate, or vigorous. As example, light physical activity was defined as walking slowly; moderate activity included a brisk walk; whereas vigorous activity took the form of a strenuous run.
The collected data was analyzed and cross-compared with glucose metabolism. Glucose metabolism is a standard measure of neuronal health and activity. The glucose levels were assessed in regions of the brain where a depressed glucose metabolism has been correlated with Alzheimer's disease. Glucose measurements were taken using an advanced imaging method termed called 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography. This is a nuclear medicine functional imaging technique that is used to observe metabolic processes in the body. Devices detect pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a specific positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. The 18F approach can differentiate Alzheimer's disease from other dementing processes.
The results showed that with moderate physical activity, this was associated with healthier (that is greater levels of) glucose metabolism in all brain regions analyzed. This peaked with 68 minutes of moderate physical activity. For those in the at risk group who only take light physical activity there was not reported change to the glucose levels and therefore presumably no significant reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Thus the results suggest that, even for those at risk from Alzheimer’s disease, engaging in moderate physical activity could slow down the progression of the disease. The research has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The research paper is titled “Moderate Physical Activity is Associated with Cerebral Glucose Metabolism in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.”
More about Alzheimer's disease, Exercise, Physical activity, Medical
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