WALKING 8,900 steps a day protects against Alzheimer’s and preserves brain power, a study suggests.
Researchers found the more active an elderly person was the less likely they were to show signs of the disease.
A study found those who had a higher step count had the slowest mental decline[/caption]
Those who kept their step count up had the slowest mental decline and lost less brain tissue in areas linked to memory.
Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, in the US, conducted brain scans on 182 adults with an average age of 73.
The pensioners also sat yearly brain tests for six years and wore tracking devices to monitor their physical activity.
Some already had plaques on their brain, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and increase the risk of mental decline.
But their brain power and grey matter also deteriorated less slowly if they were highly active.
WALK’S AN ALZ BEATER
Researcher Dr Reisa Sperling said: “Beneficial effects were seen at even modest levels of physical activity, but were most prominent at around 8,900 steps.
“This is only slightly less than the 10,000 many of us strive to achieve daily.”
Dr Jasmeer Chhatwal said: “One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue
loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain.
“We shouldn’t forget there are steps we can take now to reduce the risk going forward – even in people with build-up of these proteins.”
Dr James Pickett, from the Alzheimer’s Society, said the study adds to previous research showing the benefits of exercise.
But he added: “This can only show us that levels of physical activity are linked to brain measures – it doesn’t tell us that increasing activity would reduce your risk of getting dementia.
What is dementia and are there different types?
Dementia is a general term used to describe the deterioration of a person’s mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with their daily life.
It is known for the problems it causes with thinking, reasoning and memory – as these are the areas in the brain that become damaged.
There are two main groups dementia can be split into:
- Cortical, which causes severe memory loss like that seen in Alzheimer’s,
- Sub-cortical, which affects thinking speed and activity as seen with Parkinson’s disease.
Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the most common forms and they both cause problems with memory.
Both are rare in those under 65 years old.
Other common forms of dementia are Frontotemporal dementia, mostly diagnosed in those under 65 years old, and dementia with Lewy bodies, where nerve damage gradually gets worse over time causing slowed movement.
Scientists recently discovered a new form of dementia that has often been mistaken for Alzheimer’s.
They say it is part of the reason why finding a cure to dementia has failed so far.
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“What this research does suggest to us is that staying active is no bad thing in keeping your mind sharp and your brain healthy.
“So, although Wimbledon may be over, you can still dust off your racquet and head out onto court.”
The findings were presented at an Alzheimer’s conference in Los Angeles and published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
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