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Most Fit Have Less Brain Atrophy From Alzheimer's
Date:7/27/2008

Even moderate exercise, done regularly, improves quality of life

SUNDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Physical fitness can help the mind, body and quality of life of people with early Alzheimer's disease and dementia, according to new research.

"These studies reinforce the need for increased awareness and education about the importance of living a brain-healthy lifestyle, including staying physically active," William Thies, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a news release. "Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction."

The two studies were expected to be presented Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Chicago.

In the first study, MRI brain imaging of people taking a treadmill stress test showed a connection between cardio-respiratory fitness and Alzheimer's-related brain changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage from Alzheimer's.

"We found that, in early-stage Alzheimer's, cardio-respiratory fitness is correlated with regional brain volumes in key areas affected by the disease," study researcher Robyn Honea of the University of Kansas Medical Center, in Kansas City, said in the news release. "This suggests that maintaining cardio-respiratory fitness may positively modify Alzheimer's-related brain atrophy."

In the second study, researchers from Western Medicine in Nedlands, Australia, showed that a caregiver-driven, home-based exercise program could reduce falls, improve balance and maintain the quality of life in people with dementia over a 12-month period.


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