Regular exercise in younger years 'reduces Alzheimer's risk by 60%'
MIDDLE-AGED people can reduce their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease later in life by remaining physically active, according to a new study.
Researchers found people who exercised at least twice a week in sessions lasting 20 minutes or more reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 60 per cent, compared with those who did a small amount of training.
The active group also lowered their odds of having dementia by 50 per cent, reported the journal Lancet Neurology.
Dr Miia Kivipelto, from the Ageing Research Centre at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who led the study, said: "These findings may have wide implications for preventive healthcare.
"If an individual adopts an active lifestyle in youth and at mid-life, this may increase their probability of enjoying both physically and cognitively vital years later in life."
The researchers randomly selected 1,449 people aged between 65 and 79 who had been surveyed about their leisure-time physical activity in 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1987 to take part in the study. The scientists also found that in individuals who were genetically susceptible to Alzheimer's disease, physical activity had more pronounced effects against developing the condition or dementia in later life.
The report said there were a variety of reasons why exercise might be good for the brain.
Staying active could help to keep the brain's blood vessels in good shape as well as safeguarding against other illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which could make dementia more likely.
Exercising also affects elements in the brain important for maintaining good cognition and memory.
A spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Society said the research added to a growing body of evidence suggesting that a healthy heart can foster a healthy brain.
She said: "The findings are consistent with what the Alzheimer's Society has been saying for a while, which is that physical exercise and social interaction can reduce the risk of contracting the disease. We don't know what causes the onset of Alzheimer's or dementia, but we would encourage people to take on board this study.
"Rather than just looking at lifestyle trends after death, this study has been going since the 1970s and is a worthwhile addition to the body of evidence we have. What is good for your heart would appear to be good for your mind."
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting about 500,000 people in the UK.
The disease was first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, and is a physical condition affecting the brain. During the course of the disease "plaques" and "tangles" develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells.
It is also known that people with Alzheimer's have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain. These chemicals are involved with the transmission of messages within the brain.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, which means that, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged.
As this happens, the symptoms become more severe.
These include confusion, mood swings, and a loss of confidence during the initial stages of the disease.
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