When you exercise, your brain loves it. Of course, you may not love yourself every minute you sweat while kickboxing or running on a Saturday afternoon, but your brain will enjoy it. This is because exercise does not increase muscle tone. It not only raises the energy level of the goose and raises the mood, fights depression and anxiety. It also improves problem-solving skills and memory. Studies show that it protects against Alzheimer’s disease – delays the onset of the disease and slows down the decline in diagnosed patients.
As child boomers age and Americans live longer, Alzheimer’s disease is getting worse. By 2020, about 5.8 million people in the United States will be living with this most common form of dementia, with a mix of inflammatory and abnormally formed proteins leading to progressive memory loss and inability to perform daily activities.
Despite decades of research, researchers still do not see effective ways to treat Alzheimer’s; Even an Alzheimer’s patient cannot fully explain what is going on in his brain. Because the disease is so complex and multifaceted, says Fan Yu, a researcher at Arizona State University who specializes in applying new science to dementia to human trials. Alzheimer’s affects countless processes in the brain, our most complex organ, but most of the treatments that have been developed so far have been able to address only one aspect of the disease at once, he said. “While there are drugs that can help target some pathways, many pathways are needed.”
Therefore, studies of Yu Alzheimer’s have often focused on the ability to move our bodies. Exercise is unique because it affects the body and brain in many ways, he says, and is an important intervention in solving the complexity of Alzheimer’s.
Christian Urann, a neurologist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees, “It’s something special.” When dancing, cycling or running, it can feel like you’re doing something that has nothing to do with the brain, he says. “But you’re actually improving cognitive function.”
How it works?
Perhaps the simplest way to maintain exercise against Alzheimer’s disease is to improve cardiovascular health. The effects of a good sweating session do not stop in our heart – they help to improve the condition of our other organs and blood vessels. These healthy blood vessels improve the connections between brain cells called neurons, says Wrann. Reinforced wires make it easier for nourishing oxygen to enter, waste to escape, and neurons to communicate with one another. Improved fitness for the heart and lungs also appears to help the brain absorb glucose more efficiently, which helps keep neurons healthy.
In addition, studies on mice – a widespread source of new Alzheimer’s science because it is unethical to conduct any research in living people – have shown that exercise is a rare cause of “adult neurogenesis” or growth. new adult neurons. Although it is difficult to prove that this is the case in humans, one of the key players is the iris, a hormone produced in the muscles in response to exercise, explains Wrann. Iris is special because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, barricades of tissues and blood vessels, and prevents harmful substances from reaching the brain.
Inside, the iris helps the brain produce neurotransmitters called BDNF, which are important for the health of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain, and the hippocampus of Alzheimer’s patients shrinks as their health deteriorates, Yu said. The ability to grow new cells in the hippocampus and eliminate unwanted connections – two processes supported by the BDNF – is key to stabilizing and protecting it.
A series of studies at the Wrann Laboratory in Boston have shown that, at least in mice, the iris formed during exercise has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the brain. This may be an important concept, as some new research suggests that inflammation as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s neuronal death is the replacement of previously formed amyloid plaques. Inflammation is caused by an immune response to negative stimuli – not just viruses or bacteria, but also improperly folded proteins in the brain, for example. In a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, the immune system can respond to the presence of these plaques by attacking them, explains Wran, and in his enthusiasm, he can also attack the synapses that connect neurons. “If it’s completely out of control, you have a‘ friendly fire ’that damages the neurons,” he says. However, his research shows that the iris binds to receptors in specialized cells deep in the brain and calms the inflammatory response.
And the last part of the puzzle is that sleep is not a form of exercise, but an exercise and a love triangle with Alzheimer’s disease. When it comes to preventing dementia, sleep and exercise can work together, says neurologist Miranda Chappel-Farley, PhD. Candidate of University of California, Irwin. Studies show that more exercise leads to better sleep, which is an important protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. People who sleep well are more likely to exercise. Together, they form a strong fortress against dementia and are a life factor that is not taken into account in your risk, says Chappel-Farley, warning against “doing targeted exercise but not paying attention to sleep.”
What exercise is best?
Aerobic exercise seems to be the champion of Alzheimer’s protection and performance function. Of course, most mice that take part in Alzheimer’s tests run on wheels, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Cycling, dancing, swimming, or any activity that increases heart rate are good candidates, says Yu. Because it can raise BDNF levels; accelerate blood flow and strengthen blood vessels; and reduces abnormal changes in the brain’s ability to transmit electrical signals, “white matter hyperthermia.”
New research also shows that resistance-based muscle building exercises support a wide range of cognitive functions. This effect appears to affect patients with Alzheimer’s, which helps slow their decline, adds Yu, most patients with dementia. The goal there is not to improve, but to slow down. “And this is basically what my research shows: this exercise can straighten and stabilize,” she says.
Thai chi and other forms of exercise, including mindfulness, also reduce stress and inflammation and improve sleep, he added. However, some studies suggest that a combination of many types of exercise can provide stronger enhancement than a single activity. In a review of 71 studies on exercise and dementia, Yu and his colleagues found that the most consistent effective exercise is the “mixed component,” which is a mixture of muscle building and aerobic exercise.
However, “it is important to emphasize that there are many things we do not know,” says Chappel-Farley, because exercise takes many forms and can be adjusted in duration, intensity, frequency, and timing. “It’s not clear which might be the best.” Do we need specific exercises to benefit our brains? Are there any results that cannot be given to humans in the extensive study of mice on this subject?
Wrann says the data is still encouraging, showing that the more exercise you do, the more benefits you will get. And what is the real danger? “My big news is that exercise is good for you,” Yu said. “In the future, it’s good for your health and your life, even if you can’t predict Alzheimer’s for everyone.”
However, Wrann also considers people who are disabled or unable to exercise due to physical disabilities or who have Alzheimer’s disease despite exercising too much; There are still silver dementia bullets. Although researchers are unlikely to develop a drug that can affect the body in any way that exercise can do, they are hoping for the potential of iris as a source of new drug therapy. Since it is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that can cross the blood-brain barrier, he wonders if iris can be used as a medicine in addition to the positive effects of exercise. Inflammation in the brain appears to be central to many neurological conditions. So, he says, “We can reach out to people with Alzheimer’s disease or beyond.”