Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment - Walking Helps Slow Progression And Reduces Memory Loss

A recent study that was announced at the yearly meeting of the Radiological Society of North America concluded that those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may slow cognitive decay by walking.

“We found that walking five miles per week protects the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and MCI, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centers,” said Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., from the Department of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. “We also found that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five years.”

Alzheimer’s disease is an irrevocable disease of the brain that gradually hampers memory and cognitive ability. The National Institute on Aging reports that somewhere between 2.4 million and 5.1 million people in the U.S. currently suffer from this disease. Furthermore, these numbers are expected to increase in the next ten years if population trends continue.

MCI is distinguished by the appearance of memory problems more intense than regular memory loss due to age but not currently as pronounced as patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Because a cure for Alzheimer’s is not yet a reality, we hope to find ways of alleviating disease progression or symptoms in people who are already cognitively impaired,” Dr. Raji said.

Dr. Raji and other researchers examined the connection between physical activity and brain configuration in 426 subjects over a 20-year continuous study. These included 299 adults in good health with a median age of 78. Another 127 adults with some impairment of their cognitive abilities with a mean age of 81 were also studied. This group included 83 people with MCI and 44 patients with Alzheimer’s.

The subjects were taken from the Cardiovascular Health Study and were tracked on how much each walked per week. At the end of ten years, all participants took 3-D MRI tests to calculate any change in brain volume.

“Volume is a vital sign for the brain,” Dr. Raji said. “When it decreases, that means brain cells are dying. But when it remains higher, brain health is being maintained.”

The results were conclusive that more physical activity was greatly correlated with larger brain volume. Adults in good all round health had to walk about 6 miles per week to preserve brain volume and those with cognitive impairment, on average, required roughly 5 miles per week to preserve brain volume.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness, and unfortunately, walking is not a cure,” Dr. Raji said. “But walking can improve your brain’s resistance to the disease and reduce memory loss over time.”

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