The human brain shrinks with age. It shrinks even more in cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, science has discovered a treatment: regular exercise.
The Daily Mail reports:
Regular exercise may keep Alzheimer’s at bay – even in those whose genes put them in the dementia danger zone.
A study of men and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s found that being active at least three times a week stopped the brain from shrinking.
Strikingly, even those with a common gene called APOE-e4 were protected by brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Strenuous household chores also helped.
The APOE-e4 gene is carried by up to 30 per cent of the population. It increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in old age but not everyone with the suspect DNA will develop the disease.
The latest finding suggests the exercise may be one of the factors that decides if a brain is able to overcome its genetic inheritance.
Researcher Dr J. Carson Smith, of the University of Maryland, said: ‘We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals.
‘Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group.’
So, if you have to choose between four hours a week on the Stairmaster and four hours a week lying supine on your analyst’s couch… the former will contribute to your physical and mental health while the latter will teach you a habit that might shrink your brain.
Apparently, people had good reason to call therapists: “shrinks.”