Research has revealed that 20 minutes of exercise three times each week could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s drastically.
According to Cambridge scientists even getting off the bus one stop early and walking from there could aid in preventing this devastating illness.
Scientists have found that one third of all cases can be attributed to lifestyle, such as inactivity, smoking, poor education, high blood pressure and obesity. However, of all of these, it was found that a lack of exercise could be the most important cause of the condition.
Researchers believe that the steady flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain during physical exercise can be beneficial. It is believed that it prevents the build-up of plaques which are protein deposits that cause Alzheimer’s.
A total of 850000 Britons have been diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s. It is believed that this figure may more than double by 2050 as the population starts aging.
There are no effective treatment methods for the illness and it has a devastating effect on families of patients and is increasing the burden on the NHS.
However, adults can reduce their risk drastically simply by walking to work.
Professor Carol Brayne, based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Public Health, said that there are aspects of healthy living which reduces the risk. She said that this does not imply that Alzheimer’s and dementia completely, but there is a portion of it which is preventable. She added that going for a vigorous walk a few times during a week would help, even if it is 20 to 30 minutes three times each week.
According to NHS guidelines state that adults should get at least two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week, including housework or gardening. It has been found that more than one third of people do not manage this, including one fifth who are classified as ‘inactive’, obtaining less than 30 minutes per week.
According to Professor Brayne if someone started an exercise routine, they are more likely to start eating healthily and stop smoking. This would further reduce their risk of dementia.
The research took into account 30 studies which link dementia to different lifestyle causes. Of this, a lack of exercise contributed to 22% of all the cases, which is twice as many as other causes.
There are other researchers who are trying to determine the exact reasons why physical activity would prevent dementia and if a particular type would be more effective.
They believe that it strengthens the blood and heart vessels, which maintains a regular and steady flow of blood to the brain. This may be responsible for preventing plaque build-up, which are thought to be a trigger for Alzheimer’s.
Professor Brayne has said that in the meantime, adults should focus on trying to fit regular exercise into their lives. He said that tacking physical inactivity will reduce levels of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, prevent the development of dementia and lead to a healthier old age generally. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dr Doug Brown said that this study adds to the evidence which suggests that simple lifestyle changes could lower the risk of developing dementia. He said that regular exercise is a good starting point, along with ceasing to smoke and eating a healthy Mediterranean diet.
According to statistics, one third of adults over the age of 65 will develop dementia, and Alzheimer’s has been named as the most common type.
Image Credit: Pascal Maramis