the best medicine to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s – and cut your risk of getting it, claim researchers.
five miles of walking a week to reduce the chances of the disease
should walk six miles to reduce their chances of developing it,
says a new US study.
It found regular
daily walking strengthens the brain’s memory circuits and also
helps people who are starting to become forgetful.
used MRI scans to investigate how regular physical activity affected
the structure of the brain in people with mild cognitive impairment
(MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Cyrus Raji of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
said: ‘We found that walking five miles per week protects brain
structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and MCI,
especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning
‘We also found
that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five
In cases of
MCI, a person has cognitive or memory problems which are more marked
than typical age-related memory loss, but not yet as severe as those
found in Alzheimer’s disease.
of the people with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Raji said
‘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 already are cognitively impaired.’
and other forms of dementia, which causes shrinkage of the brain,
affect more than 700,000 people in the UK.
For some sufferers
new drugs can delay the progress of devastating symptoms such as
memory loss and erosion of the ability to do everyday things but
there is currently no cure for the disease.
For the ongoing
study, the researchers analysed the relationship between physical
activity and brain structure in 426 people in their 70s and 80s,
including 299 healthy adults, 83 patients with MCI and 44 Alzheimer’s
sufferers. The researchers monitored how far each person walked
in a week.
After 10 years
everyone underwent 3-D MRI exams to identify changes in brain volume,
which is a vital sign for the brain, said Dr Raji.
‘When it decreases,
that means brain cells are dying. But when it remains higher, brain
health is being maintained’ he added.
patients and the healthy volunteers were tested using the mini-mental
state exam (MMSE) to track cognitive decline over five years.