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Published on: January 4, 2013
by Megan Ray for Sunrise Senior Living:
Alzheimer’s disease remains a major concern for millions of baby boomers as they enter old age. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the only condition on the list that does not have a cure, or even a way to slow the progression.
While researchers search for potential treatments to help the more than 5.4 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the disease, there are other things people can do to potentially lower their chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
New research presented during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America suggests that having an active lifestyle could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The researchers found that being active could preserve gray matter in the brain, which has been linked to certain neurological diseases.
The study’s authors looked at more than 870 adults with an average age of 78 who experienced anywhere from normal cognition to Alzheimer’s dementia.
In an effort to measure an active lifestyle, the researchers looked at what kinds of recreational sports patients participated in, as well as if they did gardening or yard work. Dancing and cycling were also looked at as lifestyle factors.
Next, the scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and voxel-based morphometry in order to look at the patients’ energy exerted in comparison to their gray matter volume.
“Voxel-based morphometry is an advanced method that allows a computer to analyze an MR image and build a mathematical model that helps us to understand the relationship between active lifestyle and gray matter volume,” said study author Dr. Cyrus Raji. “Gray matter volume is a key marker of brain health. Larger gray matter volume means a healthier brain. Shrinking volume is seen in Alzheimer’s disease.”
The results indicated that how much energy a person was outputting was tied to the amount of gray matter in their frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. Researchers also noted there was a link between high energy exertion and more gray matter in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Additional work needs to be done,” Dr. Raji added. “However, our initial results show that brain aging can be alleviated through an active lifestyle.”
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