If a genie magically appeared and offered me one wish for a medical condition that I would be guaranteed to never contract, my choice would be easy: Alzheimer’s. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in feeling that way.
One in eight adults in the U. S.—5.4 million – has Alzheimer’s. Ninety percent of those who have it are over the age of 75. Those with one or more first-degree relatives who have Alzheimer’s are more likely to contact it themselves.
Everyone inherits one form of the APOE gene (2, 3 or 4), which provides the blueprint for a protein that carries cholesterol in the bloodstream. Those who inherit the APOE 4 gene from one or both parents have a greater chance of developing the disease. Approximately 1 percent have a genetic mutation and are guaranteed to contract the disease.
Growing evidence indicates that brain health is directly correlated to a healthy heart and blood vessels. Conditions that increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s are physical inactivity, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking. All of these are, of course, modifiable by exercise and healthy eating.
Deposits of beta-amyloid, a protein, are much larger in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Conversely, deposits of this protein are significantly lower in the brains of those who are fit by virtue of regular exercise.
Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, said, “Regular exercise 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.”
Most research has centered on the value of aerobic exercise to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, but the few studies that have been done about the value of strength training are also positive. So if you need one more reason to participate in aerobic exercise and strength training regularly, here it is.