Exercise can protect the brain even with signs of dementia: Study
Exercise is good for you. It has been shown to improve nearly every organ in the body, fight nearly every disease doctors diagnose and improve nearly every health condition that you might live with on a daily basis.
It gets even better. A new study finds exercise boosts levels of a protein known to strengthen communication between brain cells via synapses, which may be a key factor in keeping dementia at bay.
The protective effect was even found in active older people whose brains showed signs of plaques, tangles and other hallmarks of Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases.
Prior studies have shown that physical activity can reduce risk of dementia by 30% to 80%.
This new study was published Friday in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
"Synapses are the critical communicating junctions between nerve cells and are really where the magic happens when it comes to cognition," said study author Kaitlin Casaletto, an assistant professor of neurology in the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California San Francisco, in an email.
"All of our thinking and memory occurs as a result of these synaptic communications," she added.
Prior studies have shown that physical activity can reduce risk of dementia by 30% to 80%, "yet we do not understand how this happens at a biological level in humans," Casaletto explained.
A well-functioning brain keeps electrical signals moving smoothly through synapses from neuron to neuron and to other cells in the body. To do so, the brain needs to constantly replace worn-out proteins in those synapses, while also making sure they are properly balanced and regulated.
The new findings showed people who moved more had more protective proteins in their brains.