Being physically active for at least 2.5 hours per week could delay decline in mental capacity in a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that starts years earlier, according to recently published research.
The finding comes from an international study led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, that is called the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) and is following people with autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) and their families.
ADAD is a rare form of Alzheimer’s in which symptoms of dementia start before the age of 65 and is caused by inherited gene variants.
Alzheimer’s is the only one of the top 10 killers in the U.S. that has no cure or treatments that prevent or slow its progression.
The disease is progressive and relentless; it destroys brain cells and tissue, causing the brain to shrink. This leads to loss of capacity that affects thinking, memory, social interaction, and other functions. The ability to do everyday tasks and take care of oneself gradually diminishes.
Influencing risk factors
The strongest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are things we cannot change. These are: age, family history, and inherited genes.
However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that we can alter the strength of these risk factors — by adopting healthful lifestyle strategies.
These strategies include following a healthful diet, continuing with social activities, not smoking, avoiding too much alcohol, and being physically and mentally active.
The recent findings, which now feature in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, add to this evidence and suggest that it applies even to a form of Alzheimer’s disease that starts earlier in life.
The investigators analyzed data on 275 DIAN study people, of average age 38.4 years, all of whom had a mutated gene for ADAD.
Of these individuals, 156 were “high-active” — that is, they did more than the recommended 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, per week of exercise such as walking, swimming, aerobics, and running. The “low-active” ones did less.