At Risk for Alzheimer’s? Exercise Might Help Keep It at Bay

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Even if you are at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a little more exercise may buy you time, new research suggests.

Folks with elevated levels of a brain protein called beta amyloid tend to be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and experience rapid brain decline later in life, previous research has found.

But apparently they can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s through regular exercise, scientists report.

“People who had elevated levels of amyloid, which is one of the earliest changes you see with Alzheimer’s disease, had slower rates of cognitive decline and brain volume loss over time if they had greater levels of physical activity,” said lead researcher Jennifer Rabin. She is a scientist with the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.

It didn’t take much exercise to enjoy this protection, either.

The data suggests that people who walked 8,300 to 8,900 steps per day significantly delayed the onset of Alzheimer’s, Rabin said.

Previous studies have shown that older people who exercise generally tend to stay sharp longer into old age, but this new research shows physical activity is specifically protective for folks who have these early brain changes related to Alzheimer’s, said Dr. Howard Fillit. He’s executive director and chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

“This population is different than what’s been studied before because you’re looking at people who are clinically normal but have evidence of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains,” said Fillit, who wasn’t involved with the research.

For this study, Rabin and her colleagues asked 182 participants in the Harvard Aging Brain Study to wear a pedometer for a week, to gauge their usual level of physical activity. Brain scans were used to detect levels of amyloid beta in their brains.

Beta amyloid tends to clump in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, collecting in sticky plaques between neurons and possibly disrupting brain cell function.

The researchers then tracked the participants over as many as seven years, with annual tests to check the status of their brain function. Repeat scans also were performed to see whether their brains had started to shrink, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s progression.

The study found that people who walked more tended to stay sharper and experience a slower loss of brain volume.

What’s notable is that the brain benefits of exercise were independent of the benefits for heart and blood vessel health, Fillit said.

That means that physical activity is helping the brain in ways beyond preventing micro-strokes that can contribute to dementia, Fillit and Rabin said.

Physical activity might be preserving brain function by reducing inflammation, improving overall flow of blood to the brain, or helping people get better sleep, Rabin said.

Exercise also has been associated with higher levels of BDNF [brain-derived neurotrophic factor], a brain chemical that “is the most powerful neuroprotective growth factor that we know,” Fillit said.

“It doesn’t have to be Tour de France-level training,” Fillit said. “It can just be getting on a treadmill or an elliptical and getting your heart rate up.”

Rabin warned that while physical activity apparently helps mitigate amyloid-related declines in brain function, people with higher levels of beta amyloid are not likely to age as well as those without any amyloid in their brains.

But it’s possible that if those folks combine exercise with heart-healthy habits such as eating right and controlling their blood pressure, they might further reduce their risk of future brain loss, Rabin added.

“If you’re engaging in a host of good lifestyle choices, you maybe could get yourself back to a normal aging trajectory,” Rabin said.

The findings were published online July 16 in the journal JAMA Neurology and presented on the same day at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, in Los Angeles.

Source: HealyhDay


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Exercise Improves Anxiety And Mood In Older Adults Undergoing Chemotherapy

Although we know that exercise improves anxiety and mood problems in younger people with cancer, few studies have looked at the effects of exercise on older adults with cancer. Since most new cancer cases occur in adults aged 60 or older, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center and other institutions designed a study to learn more.

Their study appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS).

Having cancer increases the chances of people experiencing anxiety and mood issues, which can affect emotional and social well-being. In turn, this may lead people to discontinue cancer treatments—which can mean shortening their survival.

Chemotherapy can benefit older adults with cancer, even though older people receiving this type of treatment often experience higher rates of dangerous side effects than younger people do. Older adults often experience anxiety and other mood disorders during their treatment for cancer, too—and treating those problems with medications can often cause potentially dangerous side effects.

What’s more, many anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants are listed in the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria® as being potentially inappropriate for older adults. That’s why it is desirable to seek alternative treatments that are safe and effective at improving anxiety, mood disturbances, and emotional and social well-being, including treatments that don’t rely on medications. For example, several studies have been conducted to examine the relationship between exercise and mood in cancer survivors and most have shown positive results.

The researchers in the new JAGS study examined the Exercise for Cancer Patients (EXCAP) program, a home-based, low- to moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise program. In the study, those who were assigned to the EXCAP program received an exercise kit. It contained a pedometer, three exercise bands (medium, heavy, extra heavy), and an instruction manual.

During the program, participants increased the length and intensity of their workouts over time. For example, participants received an individually tailored, progressive walking routine, and they wore a pedometer and recorded their daily steps over six weeks, starting on their first day of chemotherapy treatment. They were encouraged to gradually increase their steps by five to 20 percent every week. For resistance exercise, they performed exercises with therapeutic exercise bands. Participants were given individually-tailored workout plans that encouraged them to perform 10 required exercises (such as squats and chest presses) and four optional exercises daily. Participants were also encouraged to increase the intensity and number of repetitions of resistance band exercises gradually over the course of the program.

The researchers concluded that a low- to moderate-intensity home-based exercise program improved anxiety, mood, and social and emotional well-being for older patients with cancer who received chemotherapy treatments.

The researchers also noted that in the study, the people who benefited the most from the exercise program were older adults who received chemotherapy and started off with worse anxiety, mood, and social and emotional well-being.

This summary is from “Effects of a home-based exercise program on anxiety and mood disturbances in older adults with cancer receiving chemotherapy.” It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source: HealthinAging.org


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Weightlifting Better at Reducing Heart Fat than Aerobic Exercise

Linda Carroll wrote . . . . . . . . .

Obese people who engaged in resistance training were more likely to see reductions in a type of heart fat that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, a new study finds.

In the small study, researchers determined that a certain type of heart fat, pericardial adipose tissue, was reduced in patients who did weight lifting, but not in those who worked on increasing their endurance with aerobic exercise, according to a report published in JAMA Cardiology. Both forms of exercise resulted in the reduction of a second type of heart fat, epicardial adipose tissue, which has also been linked with heart disease.

“We were surprised by this finding,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Regitse Hojgaard Christensen, a researcher at the Center of Inflammation and Metabolism and the Center for Physical Activity Research at the Copenhagen University Hospital.

While the study doesn’t explain why weight training would have a different effect from endurance training, “we know from other studies that resistance training is a stronger stimulus for increased muscle mass and increased basal metabolism compared to endurance training and we therefore speculate that participants doing resistance training burn more calories during the day – also in inactive periods-compared to those engaged in endurance training,” Christensen said in an email.

To explore the impact of different types of exercise on heart fat, Christensen and her colleagues recruited 32 adults who were obese and sedentary but did not yet have heart disease, diabetes, or atrial fibrillation.

The participants were randomly assigned to a three-month program of aerobic exercise, weight training or no change in activity (the control group). Each person had an MRI scan of the heart done at the beginning of the study and at the end.

Both types of exercise training reduced epicardial adipose tissue mass compared to no exercise: endurance training, by 32% and weight training, by 24%. However, only weight training had an impact on pericardial adipose tissue, which was reduced by 31% compared to no exercise.

“The resistance exercise training in this study was designed as a 45-minute interval type, medium load, high-repetition, time-based training,” Christensen said. “Participants performed three to five sets of 10 exercises and the sessions were supervised. This specific exercise intervention alone was effective in reducing both fat depots of the heart. We did not combine resistance and endurance training, which would have been interesting to reveal their potential additive effects.”

While there are plenty of studies looking at the impact of reducing abdominal obesity, the new study is interesting because it looks specifically at the relation between exercise and fat (around the heart),” said Dr. Chadi Alraeis, a staff interventional cardiologist and director of Interventional Cardiology at Detroit Medical Center’s Heart Hospital.

Alraeis suspects, based on the new study, that the best way to combat heart fat is to do both endurance and weight training. “Along with the time you spend on the treadmill, you might want to add some work with dumbbells, or some lunges, sit-ups or pushups,” Alraeis said. “It might even be enough to bring some weights to the office so you can use them there. “

While the findings are interesting, “we don’t know what the implication of this is 10 years later,” Alraeis said. “We don’t know if outcomes are really being changed. We need some long-term studies to look at that.”

Source: Reuters


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Exercising When You Have High Blood Pressure

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

High blood pressure is a serious risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other life-threatening medical conditions. While many people need medication and dietary changes to control their blood pressure, exercise is a key component of nearly every management plan.

Scientists know that exercise causes the body to adapt in ways that lower blood pressure, but there’s no single formula guaranteed to work for everyone. However, there are general guidelines regarding four key aspects of exercise.

Frequency: Aim to do aerobic exercise on a daily basis and strength training twice a week (on non-consecutive days to allow for muscle repair).

Intensity: Aim for moderate intensity exercise to start. For aerobic workouts, that means reaching between 60% and 70% of your maximum target heart rate (or 220 minus your age). Evidence suggests that higher intensity exercise can result in greater reduction of high blood pressure, but at the moment the risks aren’t clear.

Duration: Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day, increasing to 60 minutes if possible. If time or ability is a problem, work out in 10-minute segments that add up to your daily total. Strength training should target all major muscle groups using weight that enables you to complete two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

Type: Effective aerobic activities that are easy to start with are walking, cycling and swimming. Strength training can be done with free weights, weight machines, stretchy resistance bands and/or your own bodyweight (pushups, for instance).

Working with your doctor on your exercise plan is a must. He or she may suggest testing to determine your ideal target heart rate during vigorous activity. If you’re on high blood pressure medication, you’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t affect your ability to exercise.

Source: HealthDay


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3 Exercises for Better Balance

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

Guarding against falls isn’t just for the elderly. The inner ear’s ability to maintain balance can begin to decline as early as age 40, according to a study in Frontiers of Neurology. So the time to improve your balance is now.

Strong legs and flexible ankles help prevent falls and allow you to catch yourself if you do trip, so target these areas through exercise. Here are three moves to practice regularly.

Ankle rotations: Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg out in front of you and use your big toe to make circles in the air. Move clockwise for 15 to 20 rotations and then counterclockwise for an equal amount. Repeat with the other foot.

Single leg balancing: Stand straight, feet together, arms at your sides. Lift one foot a few inches off the floor, bending that knee slightly, and balance on the other leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. Aim for twice on each side. Keeping stomach muscles contracted will help.

The dancer’s pose: Better balance is one of yoga’s benefits, and this pose is particularly effective. Stand straight, feet together, arms at your sides. Raise your right arm out in front of you, thumb toward the ceiling. Lift your left leg behind you, bending at the knee. Reach back with your left hand to grab your left foot and help bring it toward your rear. You can lift your right arm higher for better balance. Hold briefly, then return to start and repeat on the other side. Repeat up to four times on each side.

Source : HealthDay