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Exercise, not puzzles and mind games, may stave off Alzheimer's

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Brain shrinkage has been linked to Alzheimer's disease, the tragic condition which robs the elderly of their memories and brain function. Research has proven that the brain begins to shrink years before symptoms of Alzheimer's appear. A new study now says that exercise may be superior to such brain-sharpening activities like puzzles when it comes to halting the march of brain shrinkage.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland examined the medical records of 638 Scots who were born in 1936. All were given MRI scans at 73 years of age to measure the volume of their brains.

Test subjects were asked details about their exercise habits, which ranged from light household chores to heavy exercise or competitive sports. Test subjects were also asked about participation in social or mentally-stimulating activities. The patients were then followed-up with three years later with another MRI scan.

Researchers found those who engaged in more physical activity experienced significantly less brain shrinkage than those who reported minimal exercise. Even such low stress exercise, such as walking several times each week was tied to less brain shrinkage.

"On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame," study author Dr. Alan J. Gow, PhD, a senior research fellow said in a press release.

Previous research has suggested keeping your brain active by reading, writing, completing crossword puzzles or playing challenging games may prevent development of brain plaques indicative of Alzheimer's.

"This research re-emphasizes that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it's a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run, it is crucial that -- those of us who can -- get active as we grow older," Dr. Prof James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK told the BBC.

A study conduced earlier this year found that even adults who are over 80 may be less likely to experience cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease if they engaged in light physical activities like cooking and cleaning.

Besides exercise, earlier research suggests there are seven "modifiable" risk factors for Alzheimer's that patients should keep in mind to stave off dementia, including avoiding smoking and eating healthy.

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