Exercise Can Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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Prevent Alzheimer'sThree new studies presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) suggest that physical exercise may be an effective form of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In the first study, researchers assessed the effects of moderate-to-high intensity exercises in 200 patients who had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were either assigned to a supervised exercise program for 16 weeks or a control group.

The team discovered that those in the exercise program had fewer neuropsychiatric symptoms that are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease patients than the control group.

Anxiety, irritability and depression all deteriorated with the control group, but improved slightly for those in the exercise program. The team also found that participants who attended at least 80% of the exercise classes, and who exercised daily, saw significant improvements with their mental speed and attention.

The second study analyzed the impact of exercise on one of the physiological sides of Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s often develop brain lesions known as tau tangles; higher levels of tau are linked with a rapider decline to dementia. Consequently, scientists are looking at various ways to reduce tau as a way to prevent mental decline.

The team assigned 65 sedentary adults with mild cognitive impairment to either a group who received supervised aerobic training or a group that conducted stretching exercises four times each week.

After six months, the team discovered that the aerobic exercise group had significant reductions in tau levels compared to the stretching group. Aerobic exercises improved blood flow in the regions of the brain that were associated with memory and processing.

The last study examined how aerobic exercise affected the cognition of patients with mild vascular cognitive impairment. Participants were randomly assigned to either a group that participated in aerobic exercise or a group that received the usual form of dementia care and attended a monthly nutrition seminar.

Participants were followed for a period of six months, and 62 participants completed the full study. Researchers discovered that participants in the exercise group experienced improvements in their cognitive function compared to the group that received normal care.

These studies suggest that physical activity is a potentially effective form of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, concludes: “These findings also highlight the potential value of non-drug therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and remind us that research ought to adamantly pursue combination and multi-modal approaches to Alzheimer’s therapy and prevention.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
McIntosh, J., “Physical exercise could improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia,” Medical news Today web site, July 24, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297287.php.