In previous posts I have looked at the growing body of research that supports the premise that exercise is not just good for your body but good for your mind as well. http://www.west4thphysio.com/archives/807
The research just keeps on coming. This study was published last year in the Archives of Neurology and is specific to a segment of the population that carries a particular gene variant which has been shown to dramatically increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a factor of 15. The gene is Apolipoprotein E (APOE) which everyone carries and the susceptible variant is APOE e4.
Researchers looked at just over 200 people aged 45 to 88, all without any signs of Alzheimer’s although some did have a family history. 56, or just over a quarter of the volunteers carried the APOE e4 variant. Brain scans of all the subjects allowed the researchers to assess the degree of amyloid plaque formation (a classic hallmark of Alzheimer’s) in the brain of each subject and then correlated that with the amount of regular exercise done by each participant over the past decade. The amount of exercise considered significant was to walk or jog for at least 30 minutes five times a week.
The results were interesting in that those volunteers who carried the Alzheimer’s variant and who exercised had their plaque buildup come right back to normal population levels. Exercise seemed to negate the increased risk of the variant gene. It is a small study and the volunteer participants have not been followed over a long period of time so there are limitations to the conclusions but it certainly points in the right direction.
Add this to the growing list of why it’s a great idea to stay active throughout your life and especially if there is a family history of Alzheimer’s or if you have been tested (the only way to find out) and know that you carry the variant gene.