Exercise, Health and Fitness

Imagine that you have a tank full of vital water… the only source of your drinking water for several miles. The tank is in abundance and has been created so that it can last you your entire lifetime. That should bring you comfort, no? But what if there was a leak in the tank? Drip by drip, pint by pint, gallon by gallon the water – your precious life source – was leaking out, spilling and escaping beyond your grasp. What, if anything, would you do about it? The natural reaction would be to fix it. Some of us might have even had the foresight to ensure that this essential resource was protected with a sturdier vessel.

Well, this description is analogous with your brain. Suppose that your brain had a leak. Bit by bit, memories, experiences, and basic capabilities trickle and stream out of our minds and bodies leaving us helpless and lost. This is what people with Alzheimer’s disease are faced with – a feeling that life not only passes them by, but is being ripped away from them. But how can they fix it?

There have been promises of prescription drugs and other treatments on the not-so-near horizon, but there seems to be little that we can do to heal those who suffer with this disease. There is one glimmer of hope that experts say is still the best way to subdue the symptoms and development of Alzheimer’s: exercise. Having a health and fitness plan that includes exercise has wondrous benefits, the least of which is fighting against Alzheimer’s.

In 2008, the Mayo Clinic released a report on a study done by researchers at the University of Chicago, which stated that based on a study done on mice bred to develop the specific substance known to cause Alzheimer’s disease, physically active mice not only had less of the amyloid plaque, they also created considerably more Alzheimer’s preventing enzymes. In it’s simplest explanation persons with a lot of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain are inclined to having more memory loss than those with less.

Researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis went a step further to investigate the APOE gene – a gene involved in cholesterol metabolism. Although everyone has the gene, those with a specific variation of the APOE gene called e4 are 15 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not bear the variant. Of the 201 people in the study, most of those who carried the APOE e4 gene had larger amyloid plaque build up than those without the variation. And what was extremely significant was that those who did not put health and fitness as a priority, that is, the inactive subjects seemed to have a progressive accumulation of the Alzheimer’s inducing amyloid plaque.

This is in stark contrast to those who had the gene and at the very least walked, or jogged for 30 minutes 5 times per week. These volunteers had a plaque accumulation comparable to those who did not carry the variation of the APOE gene.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, Director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, said in a research a few years back that physical exercise, done on a regular basis is “probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer’s disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet.”