A recent study suggests that engaging in simple exercises may serve as a preventive measure against the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The study, conducted by a collaborative team from the United States and Canada as part of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute's Brain Health Center, indicates that as few as 4,000 steps a day can contribute to maintaining brain health.
Examining the brains of over 10,000 individuals through MRI scans, the researchers found that regular physical activity, including walking, running or participating in sports, resulted in more pronounced gray matter (essential for processing information) and enhanced white matter (facilitating connectivity between brain regions).
The hippocampus, a critical region for memory, also showed increased prominence in those who engaged in regular exercise.
Contrary to the commonly recommended 10,000 steps, the study found that even moderate levels of physical activity below 4,000 steps daily had a positive impact on brain health. Dr. David Merrill, the co-author and director of the Pacific Brain Health Center, emphasized the attainability of the reduced goal for many people.
Dr. Somayeh Meysami, the study's co-author and assistant professor of neurosciences, highlighted the significance of the findings in understanding Alzheimer's, the most prevalent form of dementia.
Dr. Meysami said the research links regular physical activity to larger brain volumes, suggesting neuroprotective benefits and contributing to the broader comprehension of lifestyle factors in brain health and dementia prevention.
Referencing a 2020 Lancet study identifying modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's, the researchers underscored the combined influence of exercise, diet, stress reduction and social connection in substantially reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
George Perry, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, emphasized the study's contribution to the evidence supporting drug-free, modifiable factors in dementia prevention.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, aligns with other research demonstrating the interconnected relationship between the mind and body. Dr. Attariwala, the senior author of the paper, highlighted the study's comprehensive imaging scans, showing the synergy between physical activity and a healthier aging brain.
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In addition to exercise, recent studies have explored various factors contributing to dementia and Alzheimer's risk. Researchers from McGill University found that the common stomach bug Helicobacter pylori raises the risk of Alzheimer's by over 10% among older adults.
Another groundbreaking study identified lifestyle and health-related factors such as alcohol misuse, lower socioeconomic background, loneliness and hearing impairment as potential contributors to dementia. Notably, this study is the first to suggest that reducing certain lifestyle choices could have a similar preventative effect.
Conducted by researchers at the universities of Exeter and Maastricht, the study also identified other factors, including orthostatic hypotension, depression, stroke, genetic risk, high deprivation, diabetes, heart disease, Vitamin D deficiency, high C-reactive protein levels, social isolation, moderate alcohol use, formal education and higher handgrip strength.
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