Exercise May Halt Dementia by Preventing Brain shrinkage

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Exercise May Halt Dementia by Preventing Brain shrinkage

Aerobic exercise such as walking and running may halt dementia by preventing the brain from shrinking, new research suggests.

Being active several times a week maintains the size of the region of the brain associated with memory, a study found.

Known as the hippocampus, this region is often one of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimer's patients.

Lead author Joseph Firth from the Western Sydney University, said: 'When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain.

'In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance programme for the brain.'

Researchers from the universities of Western Sydney and Manchester analysed 14 studies with a total of 737 participants.

The participants were aged between 24 and 76, with an average age of 66.

They were made up of healthy individuals, Alzheimer's patients and people with mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia.

Scans of the participants' brains were investigated before and after completing exercise, such as walking or treadmill running.

The exercise programmes lasted between three months and two years, with participants completing two to five sessions a week.

Results reveal exercise significantly increases the left side of the brain's hippocampus.

The hippocampus' main role is maintaining memories, particularly long-term ones. It is also involved in helping people navigate.

In Alzheimer's, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate.

Mr Firth said: 'When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain.

'Our data showed that, rather than actually increasing the size of the hippocampus per se, the main "brain benefits" are due to exercise slowing down the deterioration in brain size.

'In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance programme for the brain.'

The findings were published in the journal NeuroImage.

 

Source: The Daily Mail