Exercise Could Help Prevent Alzheimer's

Alzheimers disease prevention starts with exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Regular exercise may do more than help keep your body in tip top physical shape. It may also prevent brain damage linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Previous studies had shown that exercise after brain injury could assist the repair mechanisms. However, new research indicates exercise before damage occurs modifies the brain environment in a way that allows neurons to protect from severe damage.

"Exercise regularly to protect your brain."

Jean Harry, a professor who led the study at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said that exercise allows the brain to quickly produce chemicals that can prevent damaging inflammation. Harry said the finding could aid in development of a therapeutic approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain.

Researchers exposed mice to a chemical that destroyed the hippocampus, an area of the brain which controls learning and memory.  Those that were exercised regularly before exposure to the chemical produced an immune messenger in the brain called interleukin-6. This immune messenger limits the harmful inflammatory response to the damage and prevents loss of function.

The findings suggested that exercise may be able to affect the path of numerous neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease.

Harry said the research also raises the possibility that exercise could offer protection against harmful effects from environmental toxins.

Dr. Ruth Barrientos from the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, said the greatest challenge in this line of research may not be additional discoveries of compelling evidence of anti-neuroinflammatory effects of exercise, but instead on finding ways to convince individuals to exercise voluntarily and regularly.

The research was published in Elsevier's journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

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Review Date: 
August 15, 2011
Last Updated:
August 16, 2011