Monday, December 7, 2009

Exercise Now to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

I spoke with a researcher who has devoted the last nine years to studying Alzheimer’s Disease, and his advice to everyone is “get off the couch.” Dr. Robert Nagele is a researcher for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. We all know that exercise is important, but now researchers are finding that it can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, a debilitating disease that causes memory loss in older people.

Dr. Nagele says that at the age of 65, the incidence of getting Alzheimer’s Disease is four percent, and at the age of 85 it’s fifty percent. He believes that everybody has Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s just a question of degree. The people who come into the doctor’s offices just have more disease than other people.

It turns out that we have a blood-brain barrier which is very important. It’s intact in people when they’re healthy, and its purpose is to keep things in the blood. When those vessels travel through the brain, they make sure that nothing leaks out into the brain that shouldn’t. As we get older, we experience aging associated changes in our blood vessels, including the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. You begin to spring leaks in your brain, and they wreak havoc on the ability of the brain to function. There’s a material called amyloid that characteristically accumulates in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s Disease. You have it all over your body but not in your brain. When your blood-brain barrier breaks down, the deal’s off and the gates open and the amyloid now begins to flood out in the brain. The accumulation of amyloid is one of the hallmark characteristics of the disease.

There are things healthy adults can do to help stave off this disease. First, get off the couch. When people retire, they stop working and get a little more lethargic, eating less healthy foods and spending too much time being inactive. These bad habits are harmful to their blood vessels. The blood-brain barrier breakdown is an early step in Alzheimer’s Disease process so you should do all you can to keep your blood-brain barrier intact and healthy. That means maintain your cardiovascular health, and a fringe benefit is that it’s also good for your heart. Get a gym membership, walk on the treadmill, keep your weight down and watch what you eat. The worst thing that has happened to our society is the fact that we spend six and a half hours a day on average watching television.

Experts have said for many years that exercise is good for us in many ways. Now we can add one more benefit to the list.

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