How you take care of your overall health certainly changes as you age. But as opposed to cardiovascular issues or diabetes, a plan of action can be less clear when it comes to lessening your chances of Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, it's not something that can be easily dismissed: the neurodegenerative condition is responsible for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer's Association. But according to a study, doing one thing for just 10 minutes twice a week can go a long way in lowering your Alzheimer's risk. Read on to see how you can easily boost your brain health.
Exercising for 10 minutes twice a week decreases your Alzheimer's disease risk.
The latest findings come from a study published in November in the journal Alzheimer's Research and Therapy. A team of researchers from Yonsei University College of Medicine in South Korea analyzed the medical records of 247,149 participants diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) between 2005 and 2009 and an average age between 64 and 69 to test the likelihood that the patients would develop Alzheimer's disease. The researchers noted that those with an MCI diagnosis are ten times more likely to develop the degenerative neurological condition than the general population.
A follow-up was then conducted with participants twice over the course of the study, including a questionnaire that asked how much they had exercised in the previous week. Results found that participants who completed moderate to vigorous exercise for 10 minutes or more twice a week were 18 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who didn't work out.
There was an even greater health benefit to working out more, even if the habit started later in life.
While the two short sweat sessions brought about a considerable drop in the risk of developing the neurodegenerative condition, working out more yielded even better results. Data showed that those who exercised for 10 minutes three to five times a week were 15 percent even less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who worked out fewer times every seven days.
Results also showed that patients who got a later start on their exercise habit still saw benefits. Participants who only began working out after their MCI diagnosis saw an 11 percent drop in the risk of the disease. On the other hand, those who stopped exercising after their diagnosis fell in line with expectations, developing Alzheimer's disease at the same rate as participants who didn't work out before, either.
Researchers concluded that physical activity could help stop the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The team ultimately concluded that exercising regularly could prevent Alzheimer's disease from developing by supporting the increased production of molecules that help neurons grow and survive, as well as increasing blood flow to the brain. This likely prevents a reduction in brain volume that is often associated with dementia.
"Our findings indicate that regular physical activity may protect against the conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease," Hanna Cho, MD, one of the study's authors, said in a statement. "We suggest that regular exercise should be recommended to patients with mild cognitive impairment. Even if a person with mild cognitive impairment did not exercise regularly before their diagnosis, our results suggest that starting to exercise regularly after diagnosis could significantly lower their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."
Other recent studies have found exercise can help boost brain health and stave off dementia.
Other recent studies have also found that exercising could help keep conditions like Alzheimer's disease at bay. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) set out to better understand how blood flow to the brain can affect the onset of dementia by gathering 70 participants between the ages of 55 and 80 that had been diagnosed with memory loss and randomly split them into two groups. The team then instructed one set of participants to complete stretching exercises three to five times each week for 30 to 40 minutes, while the other group was instructed to take a brisk walk three to five times weekly for the same duration of time.
After a year, MRIs showed that those who were in the group prescribed aerobic exercise had increased blood flow to their brains and that the blood vessels in their necks were less stiff. Participants in the stretching group did not display the same results.
"There is still a lot we don't know about the effects of exercise on cognitive decline later in life," C. Munro Cullum, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UTSW and co-senior author of the study, said in a statement. "MCI [mild cognitive impairment] and dementia are likely to be influenced by a complex interplay of many factors, and we think that, at least for some people, exercise is one of those factors."